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M.A.,  D.Sc.  OXON.,  HON.  LL.D.,  F.R.S. 

Secretary  of  the  Zoological  Society  of  London  :  Corresponding  Member 
of  the  Academy  of  Natural  Sciences  of  Philadelphia 

Ifcnicfeerbocfcer  press 

,7  25 



ELIE  METCHNIKOFF  has  carried  on  the  high  purpose  of  the 
Pasteur  Institute  by  devoting  his  genius  for  biological 
inquiry  to  the  service  of  man.  Some  years  ago,  in  a  series 
of  Essays  which  were  intended  to  be  provocative  and 
educational,  rather  than  expository,  he  described  the  direc- 
tion towards  which  he  was  pressing.  I  had  the  privilege 
of  introducing  these  Essays  to  English  readers  under  the 
title  The  Nature  of  Man,  ai^tudy  in  Optimistic  Philosophy. 
In  that  volume,  Professor  Metchnikoff  recounted  how 
sentient  man,  regarding  his  lot  in  the  world,  had  found  it 
evil.  Philosophy  and  literature,>religion  and  folk-lore,  in 
ancient  and  modern  times  have  been  deeply  tinged  with 
pessimism.  The  source  of  these  gloomy  views  lies  in  the 
nature  of  man  itself.  Man  has  inherited  a  constitution 
from  remote  animal  ancestors,  and  every  part  of  his  struc- 
ture, physical,  mental  and  emotional,  is  a  complex  legacy 
of  diverse  elements.  Possibly  at  one  time  each  quality 
had  its  purpose  as  an  adaptation  to  environment,  but,  as 
man,  in  the  course  of  his  evolution,  and  the  environment 
itself  have  changed,  the  old  harmonious  intercourse 
between  quality  and  circumstances  has  been  dislocated  in 
many  cases.  And  so  there  have  come  into  existence  many 
instances  of  what  the  Professor  calls  "  disharmony,"  per- 
sistences of  structures,  or  habits,  or  desires  that  are  no 


longer  useful,  but  even  harmful,  failures  of  parallelism 
between  the  growth,  maturity  and  decay  of  physical  and 
mental  qualities  and  so  forth.  Religions  and  philosophies 
alike  have  failed  to  find  remedies  or  efficient  anodynes  for 
these  evils  of  existence,  and,  so  far,  man  is  justified  of 
his  historical  and  actual  pessimism. 

Metchnikoff,  however,  was  able  to  proclaim  himself  an 
optimist,  and  found,  in  biological  science,  for  the  present 
generation  a  hope,  or,  at  the  least,  an  end  towards  which  to 
work,  and  for  future  generations  a  possible  achievement  of 
that  hope.  Three  chief  evils  that  hang  over  us  are  disease, 
old  age,  and  death.  Modern  science  has  already  made  vast 
strides  towards  the  destruction  of  disease,  and  no  one  has 
more  right  to  be  listened  to  than  a  leader  of  the  Pasteur 
Institute  when  he  asserts  his  confidence  that  rational 
hygiene  and  preventive  measures  will  ultimately  rid  man- 
kind of  disease.  The  scientific  investigation  of  old  age 
shows  that  senility  is  nearly  always  precocious  and  that  its 
disabilities  and  miseries  are  for  the  most  part  due  to  pre- 
ventable  causes.  Metchnikoff  showed  years  ago  that  there 
exists  in  the  human  body  a  number  of  cells  known  gener- 
ally as  phagocytes,  the  chief  function  of  which  is  to  devour 
intruding  microbes.  But  these  guardians  of  the  body  may 
turn  into  its  deadly  enemies  by  destroying  and  replacing 
the  higher  elements,  the  specific  cells  of  the  different  tissues. 
The  physical  mechanism  of  senility  appears  to  be  in  large 
measure  the  result  of  this  process.  Certain  substances, 
notably  the  poisons  of  such  diseases  as  syphilis  and  the 
products  of  intestinal  putrefaction,  stimulate  the  activity 
of  the  phagocytes  and  so  encourage  their  encroachment  on 
the  higher  tissues.  The  first  business  of  science  is  to  re- 
move these  handicaps  in  favour  of  the  wandering,  cor- 
roding phagocytes.  Specific  poisons  must  be  dealt  with 


separately,  by  prevention  or  treatment,  and  it  is  well  known 
that  Metchnikoff  has  made  great  advances  in  that  direc- 
tion. The  most  striking  practical  side  of  The  Nature  of 
Man,  however,  was  the  discussion  of  the  cause  and  pre- 
vention of  intestinal  putrefaction.  Metchnikoff  believes  that 
the  inherited  structure  of  the  human  large  intestine  and  the 
customary  diet  of  civilised  man  are  specially  favourable  to 
the  multiplication  of  a  large  number  of  microbes  that  cause 
putrefaction.  The  avoidance  of  alcohol  and  the  rigid  ex- 
clusion from  diet  of  foods  that  favour  putrefaction,  such  as 
rich  meats,  and  of  raw  or  badly  cooked  substances  con- 
taining microbes,  do  much  to  remedy  the  evils.  But  the 
special  introduction  of  the  microbes  which  cause  lactic  fer- 
mentation has  the  effect  of  inhibiting  putrefaction.  By 
such  measures  Metchnikoff  believes  that  life  \vill  be  greatly 
prolonged  and  that  the  chief  evils  of  senility  will  be 
avoided.  It  may  take  many  generations  before  the  final 
result  is  attained,  but,  in  the  meantime,  great  amelioration 
is  possible.  There  remains  the  last  enemy,  death.  Metch- 
nikoff shows  that  in  the  vast  majority  of  cases  death  is  not 
"natural,"  but  comes  from  accidental  and  preventable 
causes.  When  diseases  have  been  suppressed  and  the 
course  of  life  regulated  by  scientific  hygiene,  it  is  probable 
that  death  would  come  only  at  an  extreme  old  age.  Metch- 
nikoff thinks  that  there  is  evidence  enough  at  least  to 
suggest  that  when  death  comes  in  its  natural  place  at  the 
end  of  the  normal  cycle  of  life, -it  would  be  robbed  of  its 
terrors  and  be  accepted  as  gratefully  as  any  other  part  of 
the  cycle  of  life.  He  thinks,  in  fact,  that  the  instinct  of  life 
would  be  replaced  by  an  instinct  of  death.  v 

Metchnikoff's  suggestion,  then,  was  that  science  should 
be  encouraged  and  helped  in  every  possible  way  in  its  task 
of  removing  the  diseases  and  habits  that  now  prevent 


human  life  from  running  its  normal  course,  and  his  belief 
is  that  were  the  task  accomplished,  the  great  causes  of 
pessimism  would  disappear. 

In  this  new  volume,  The  Prolongation  of  Life,  the 
main  thesis  is  carried  further,  and  a  number  of  criti- 
cisms and  objections  are  met.  The  latter,  so  far  as  they 
relate  to  technical  details,  I  need  say  nothing  of  here,  as 
Metchnikoff  and  his  staff  at  the  Pasteur  Institute  are  the 
most  skilled  existing  technical  experts  on  these  matters, 
but  I  cannot  refrain  from  a  word  of  comment  on  the  bril- 
liant treatment  of  the  objection  to  the  suggested  ameliora- 
tion of  human  life  that  it  considered  only  the  individual 
and  neglected  the  just  subordination  of  the  individual  to 
society.  In  the  sixth  Part  of  this  volume,  Metchnikoff  dis- 
cusses the  relation  of  the  individual  to  the  species,  society 
or  colony,  from  the  general  point  of  view  of  comparative 
biology,  and  shows  that  as  organisation  progresses,  the 
integrity  of  the  individual  becomes  increasingly  important. 
Were  orthobiosis,  the  normal  cycle  of  life,  attained  by 
human  beings,  there  still  would  be  room  for  specialisation 
of  individuals  and  for  differentiation  of  the  functions  of 
individuals  in  society,  but  instead  of  the  specialisation  and 
differentiation  making  individuals  incomplete  throughout 
their  whole  lives,  they  would  be  distributed  over  the 
different  periods  of  the  life  of  each  individual. 

As  these  lines  are  intended  to  be  an  introduction,  not  a 
commentary,  I  will  now  leave  the  reader  to  follow  the 
argument  in  the  book  itself. 

LONDON,  August,  1907. 


IT  is  now  four  years  since  I  wrote  a  volume,  the  English 
translation  of  which  was  called  The  Nature  of  Man,  and 
which  was  an  attempt  to  frame  an  optimistic  conception  of 
life.  Human  nature  contains  many  very  complex  elements, 
due  to  its  animal  ancestry,  and  amongst  these  there  are 
some  disharmonies  to  which  our  misfortunes  are  due,  but 
also  elements  which  afford  the  promise  of  a  happier  human 

My  views  have  encountered  many  objections,  and  I  wish 
to  reply  to  some  of  these  by  developing  my  arguments. 
This  was  my  first  task  in  this  book,  but  I  have  also  brought 
together  a  series  of  studies  on  problems  which  closely 
affect  my  theory. 

Although  it  has  been  possible  to  support  my  conception 
by  new  facts,  some  of  which  have  been  established  by  my 
fellow-workers,  others  by  myself,  there  still  remain  many 
sides  of  the  subject  where  it  is  necessary  to  fall  back  on 
hypotheses.  I  have  accepted  such  imperfections  instead  of 
delaying  the  publication  of  my  book. 

Even  at  present  there  are  critics  who  regard  me  as  in- 
capable of  sane  and  logical  reasoning.  The  longer  I  post- 
pone publication,  the  longer  would  I  leave  the  field  open 
to  such  persons.  What  I  have  been  saying  may  serve  also 


as  a  reply  to  the  remark  of  one  of  my  critics,  that  my  ideas 
have  been  "  suggested  by  self-preoccupation." 

It  is,  of  course,  quite  natural  that  a  biologist  whose  atten- 
tion had  been  aroused  by  noticing  in  his  own  case  the 
phenomena  of  precocious  old  age  should  turn  to  study  the 
causes  of  it.  But  it  is  equally  plain  that  such  a  study  could 
give  no  hope  of  resisting  the  decay  of  an  organism  which 
had  already  for  many  years  been  growing  old.  If  the  ideas 
which  have  come  out  of  my  work  bring  about  some  modi- 
fication in  the  onset  of  old  age,  the  advantage  can  be 
gained  only  by  those  who  are  still  young,  and  who  will 
be  at  the  pains  to  follow  the  new  knowledge.  This  volume, 
in  fact,  like  my  earlier  one  on  the  "Nature  of  Man,"  is 
directed  much  more  to  the  new  generation  than  to  that 
which  has  already  been  subjected  to  the  influence  of  the 
factors  which  produce  precocious  old  age.  I  think  that 
thus  the  experience  of  those  who  have  lived  and  worked 
for  long  can  be  made  of  service  to  others. 

As  this  volume  is  a  sequel  to  The  Nature  of  Man,  I 
have  tried  as  much  as  possible  to  avoid  repetition  of  what 
was  fully  explained  in  the  earlier  volume. 

Here  I  bring  together  the  results  of  work  that  has  been 
done  since  the  publication  of  The  Nature  of  Man.  Some 
of  the  chapters  relate  to  subjects  upon  which  I  have  lec- 
tured, or  which,  in  a  different  form,  have  been  printed 
before.  For  instance,  the  section  on  the  psychic  rudiments 
of  man  appeared  in  the  Bulletin  de  I' Institut  general  psycho- 
logique  of  1904,  the  essay  on  Animal  Societies  was  pub- 
lished in  the  Revue  Philomatique  de  Bordeaux  et  du  Sud- 
Ouest  of  1904,  and  in  the  Revue  of  J.  Finot  of  the  same 
year,  whilst  a  German  translation  of  it  appeared  in  Prof. 
Ostwald's  Annalen  der  Naturphilosophie.  The  chapter 
on  soured  milk  first  appeared  as  a  pamphlet,  published  in 


1905.  The  substance  of  my  views  on  natural  death  was 
published  in  June  last  in  "  Harper's  Monthly  Magazine" 
of  New  York,  while  the  chapter  on  natural  death  in  animals 
appeared  in  the  first  number  of  the  Revue  du  Mois  for 

I  have  to  thank  most  sincerely  the  friends  and  pupils 
who  have  helped  me  by  bringing  before  me  new  facts,  or 
other  materials;  the  names  of  these  will  appear  in  their 
proper  places  in  the  volume.  I  have  not  mentioned  by 
name,  however,  Dr.  J.  Goldschmidt,  whose  continual  en- 
couragement and  practical  sympathy  have  made  my  work 
much  easier. 

Finally,  my  special  thanks  are  due  to  Drs.  Em.  Roux 
and  Burnet,  and  M.  Mesnil,  who  have  been  so  good  as  to 
correct  my  manuscript  and  the  proofs  of  this  volume. 

E.  M. 
PARIS,  Feb.  7,  1907. 








Treatment  of  old  people  in  uncivilised  countries. — Assassination 
of  old  people  in  civilised  countries. — Suicide  of  old  people. — 
Public  assistance  in  old  age. — Centenarians. — Mme. 
Robineau,  a  lady  of  106  years  of  age. — Principal  characters 
of  old  age. — Examples  of  old  mammals. — Old  birds  and 
tortoises. — Hypothesis  of  senile  degeneration  in  the  lower 
animals I 



Hypothesis  of  the  causation  of  senility. — Senility  cannot  be 
attributed  to  the  cessation  of  the  power  of  reproduction  of 
the  cells  of  the  body. — Growth  of  the  hair  and  the  nails  in 
old  age. — Inner  mechanism  of  the  senescence  of  the  tissues. 
— Notwithstanding  the  criticisms  of  M.  Marinesco,  the 
neuronophags  are  true  phagocytes. — The  whitening  of  hair, 
and  the  destruction  of  nerve  cells  as  arguments  against  a 
theory  of  old  age  based  on  the  failure  of  the  reproductive 
powers  of  the  cells  .........  15 



Action  of  the  macrophags  in  destroying  the  higher  cells. — 
Senile  degeneration  of  the  muscular  fibres. — Atrophy  of  the 



skeleton. — Atheroma  and  arterial  sclerosis. — Theory  that 
Old  Age  is  due  to  alteration  in  the  vascular  glands. — 
Organic  tissues  that  resist  phagocytosis  ....  25 




Relation  between  longevity  and  size. — Longevity  and  the  period 
of  growth. — Longevity  and  the  doubling  in  weight  after 
birth. — Longevity  and  rate  of  reproduction. — Probable  rela- 
tions between  longevity  and  the  nature  of  the  food  .  .  39 



Longevity  in  the  lower  animals. — Instances  of  long  life  in  sea- 
anemones  and  other  vertebrates. — Duration  of  life  of  insects. 
— Duration  of  life  of  "  cold-blooded  "  vertebrates. — Dura- 
tion of  life  of  birds. — Duration  of  life  of  mammals. — 
Inequality  of  the  duration  of  life  in  males  and  females. — 
Relations  between  longevity  and  fertility  of  the  organism  .  47 



Relations  between  longevity  and  the  structure  of  the  digestive 
system. — The  caeca  in  birds. — The  large  intestine  of  mam- 
mals.— Function  of  the  large  intestine. — The  intestinal 
microbes  and  their  agency  in  producing  auto-intoxication 
and  auto-infection  in  the  organism. — Passage  of  microbes 
through  the  intestinal  wall  .......  59 



Relations  between  longevity  and  the  intestinal  flora. — Rumi- 
nants.— The  horse. — Intestinal  flora  of  birds. — Intestinal 
flora  of  cursorial  birds. — Duration  of  life  in  cursorial 
birds. — Flying  mammals. — Intestinal  flora  and  longevity 
of  bats.— Some  exceptions  to  the  rule.— Resistance  of  the 
lower  vertebrates  to  certain  intestinal  microbes  ...  73 



Longevity  of  man. — Theory  of  Ebstein  on  the  normal  duration 
of  human  life. — Instances  of  human  longevity. — Circum- 
stances which  may  explain  the  long  duration  of  human  life  84 




Theory  of  the  immortality  of  unicellular  organisms. — Examples 
of  very  old  trees.— Examples  of  short-lived  plants. — Pro- 
longation of  the  life  of  some  plants. — Theory  of  the  natural 
death  of  plants  by  exhaustion. — Death  of  plants  from  auto- 
intoxication . 94 



Different  origins  of  death  in  animals. — Examples  of  natural 
death  associated  with  violent  acts. — Examples  of  natural 
death  in  animals  without  digestive  organs. — Natural  death 
in  the  two  sexes. — Hypothesis  as  to  the  cause  of  natural 
death  in  animals  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  109 



Natural  death  in  the  aged. — Analogy  of  natural  death  and 
sleep. — Theories  of  sleep. — Ponogenes. — The  instinct  of 
sleep. — The  instinct  of  natural  death. — Replies  to  critics. — 
Agreeable  sensation  at  the  approach  of  death  .  .  .119 




Complaints  of  the  shortness  of  our  life. — Theory  of  "  medical 
selection  "  as  a  cause  of  degeneration  of  the  race. — Utility 
of  prolonging  human  life  ....  .  132 




Ancient  methods  of  prolonging  human  life. — Gerokomy. — The 
"  immortality  draught  "  of  the  Taoists. — Brown-S6quard's 
method. — The  spermine  of  Poehl. — Dr.  Weber's  precepts. — 
Increased  duration  of  life  in  historical  times. — Hygienic 
maxims. — Decrease  in  cutaneous  cancer  ....  136 



Measures  against  infectious  diseases  as  aiding  in  the  prolonga- 
tion of  life. — Prevention  of  syphilis. — Attempts  to  prepare 
serums  which  could  strengthen  the  higher  elements  of  the 
organism 145 



Uselessness  of  the  large  intestine  in  man. — Case  of  a  woman 
whose  large  intestine  was  inactive  for  six  months. — Another 
case  where  the  greater  part  of  the  large  intestine  was  com- 
pletely shut  off. — Attempts  to  disinfect  the  contents  of  the 
large  intestine. — Prolonged  mastication  as  a  means  of  pre- 
venting intestinal  putrefaction 151 


The  development  of  the  intestinal  flora  in  man. — Harmlessness 
of  sterilised  food. — Means  of  preventing  the  putrefaction  of 
food. — Lactic  fermentation  and  its  anti-putrescent  action.— 
Experiments  on  man  and  mice. — Longevity  in  races  which 
used  soured  milk. — Comparative  study  of  different  soured 
milks. — Properties  of  the  Bulgarian  Bacillus. — Means  of 
preventing  intestinal  putrefaction  with  the  help  of  microbes  161 




Reply   to  critics   who  deny  the  simian  origin  of  man. — Actual 
existence  of  rudimentary  organs. — Reductions  in  the  struc- 



ture  of  the  organs  of  sense  in  man. — Atrophy  of  Jacobson's 
organ  and  of  the  Harderian  gland  in  the  human  race  .         .     184 



The  mental  character  of  anthropoid  apes. — Their  muscular 
strength. — Their  expression  of  fear. — The  awakening  of 
latent  instincts  of  man  under  the  influence  of  fear  .  .191 



Fear  as  the  primary  cause  of  hysteria. — Natural  somnambulism. 
— Doubling  of  personality. — Some  examples  of  somnam- 
bulists.— Analogy  between  somnambulism  and  the  life  of 
anthropoid  apes. — The  psychology  of  crowds. — Importance 
of  the  investigation  of  hysteria  for  the  problem  of  the  origin 
of  man  ...........  200 





Problem  of  the  species  in  the  human  race. — Loss  of  individuality 
in  the  associations  of  lower  animals. — Myxomycetes  and 
Siphonophora. — Individuality  in  Ascidians. — Progress  in  the 
development  of  the  individual  living  in  a  society  .  .212 



Social  life  of  insects. — Development  and  preservation  of  indi- 
viduality in  colonies  of  insects. — Division  of  labour  and 
sacrifice  of  individuality  in  some  insects  ....  220 



Human  societies. — Differentiation  in  the  human  race. — Learned 
women. — Habits  of  a  bee,  Halictus  quadricinctus. — Col- 
lectivist  theories. — Criticisms  by  Herbert  Spencer  and 


xviii  CONTENTS 


Nietzsche. — Progress    of    individuality  in    the    societies     of 
higher  beings          . 223 




Oriental    origin    of    pessimism. — Pessimistic    poets. — Byron. — 

Leopardi. — Poushkin. — Lermontoff. — Pessimism  and  suicide    233 



Attempts  to  assign  reasons  for  the  pessimistic  conception  of 
life. — Views  of  E.  von  Hartmann. — Analysis  of  Kowalev- 
sky's  work  on  the  psychology  of  pessimism  ....  239 



Relation  between  pessimism  and  the  state  of  the  health. — 
History  of  a  man  of  science  who  was  pessimistic  when 
young  and  who  became  an  optimist  in  old  age. — Optimism 
of  Schopenhauer  when  old. — Development  of  the  sense  of 
life. — Development  of  the  senses  in  blind  people. — The  sense 
of  obstacles 247 





Goethe's  youth. — Pessimism  of  youth. — Werther. — Tendency  to 
suicide. — Work  and  love. — Goethe's  conception  of  life  in 
his  maturity 261 



Goethe's  optimistic  period. — His  mode  of  life  in  that  period. — 
Influence  of  love  in  artistic  production. — Inclinations 
towards  the  arts  must  be  regarded  as  secondary  sexual  char- 



acters.— Senile  love  of  Goethe.— Relation  between  genius 
and  the   sexual   activities        .......     270 



Old  age  of  Goethe. — Physical  and  intellectual  vigour  of  the 
old  man. — Optimistic  conception  of  life. — Happiness  in  life 
in  his  last  period 279 


GOETHE   AND    "  FAUST  " 

Faust  the  biography  of  Goethe. — The  three  monologues  in 
the  first  Part. — Faust's  pessimism. — The  brain-fatigue 
which  finds  a  remedy  in  love. — The  romance  with  Mar- 
guerite and  its  unhappy  ending  .  .  .  .  .  .  283 



The  second  Part  of  Faust  is  in  the  main  a  description  of  senile 
love. — Amorous  passion  of  the  old  man. — Humble  attitude 
of  the  old  Faust. — Platonic  love  for  Helena. — The  old 
Faust's  conception  of  life. — His  optimism. — The  general  idea 
of  the  play 290 




Difficulty  of  the  problem  of  morality. — Vivisection  and  anti-vivi- 
section.— Enquiry  into  the  possibility  of  rational  morality. — 
Utilitarian  and  intuitive  theories  of  morality. — Insufficiency 
of  these 301 



Attempts  to  found  morality  ori  the  laws  of  human  nature. — 
Kant's  theory  of  moral  obligation. — Some  criticisms  of  the 
Kantian  theory. — Moral  conduct  must  be  guided  by  reason  309 




Individual  morality. — History  of  two  brothers  brought  up  in  the 
same  circumstances,  but  whose  conduct  was  quite  different. 
— Late  development  of  the  sense  of  life. — Evolution  of  sym- 
pathy.— The  sphere  of  egoism  in  moral  conduct. — Christian 
morality. — Morality  of  Herbert  Spencer. — Danger  of  exalted 
altruism  .  316 



Human  nature  must  be  modified  according  to  an  ideal. — Com- 
parison with  the  modification  of  the  constitution  of  plants 
and  of  animals. — Schlanstedt  rye. — Burbank's  plants.— 
The  ideal  of  orthobiosis. — The  immorality  of  ignorance. — 
The  place  of  hygiene  in  the  social  life. — The  place  of  altru- 
ism in  moral  conduct. — The  freedom  of  the  theory  of 
orthobiosis  from  metaphysics 325 






Treatment  of  old  people  in  uncivilised  countries — Assassina- 
tion of  old  people  in  civilised  countries — Suicide  of  old  people 
— Public  assistance  in  old  age — Centenarians — Mme. 
Robineau,  a  lady  of  106  years  of  age — Principal  characters 
of  old  age — Examples  of  old  mammals — Old  birds  and  tor- 
toises— Hypothesis  of  senile  degeneration  in  the  lower 

IN  the  ' '  Nature  of  Man  ' '  I  laid  down  the  outlines  of  a  theory 
of  the  actual  changes  which  take  place  during  the  sen- 
escence of  our  body.     These  ideas,  on  the  one  hand,  have 
raised  certain  difficulties,  and,  on  the  other,  have  led  to  new 
investigations.     As    the   study   of    old    age    is   of    great 
theoretical  importance,  and  naturally  is  of  practical  value, 
I  think  that  it  is  useful  to  pursue  the  subject  still  further. 
^.       Although  there  exist  races  which  solve  the  difficulty  of 
^  old  age  by  the  simple  means  of  destroying  aged  people, 
y^  the  problem  in  civilised  countries  is  complicated  by  our 
»  more  refined  feelings  and  by  considerations  of  a  general 

In  the  Melanesian  Islands,  old  people  who  have  become 
incapable  of  doing  useful  work  are  buried  alive. 

In  times  of  famine,  the  natives  of  Tierra  del  Fuego  kill 
and   eat   the  old   women   before   they   touch  their   dogs. 



When  they  were  asked  why  they  did  this,  they  said  that 
dogs  could  catch  seals,  whilst  old  women  could  not  do  so. 

Civilised  races  do  not  act  like  the  Fuegians  or  other 
savages ;  they  neither  kill  nor  eat  the  aged,  but  none  the 
less  life  in  old  age  often  becomes  very  sad.  As  they  are 
incapable  of  performing  any  useful  function  in  the  family 
or  in  the  village,  the  old  people  are  regarded  as  a  heavy 
burden.  Although  they  cannot  be  got  rid  of,  their  death 
is  awaited  with  eagerness,  and  is  never  thought  to  come 
soon  enough.  The  Italians  say  that  old  women  have  seven 
lives.  According  to  a  Bergamask  tradition,  old  women 
have  seven  souls,  and  after  that  an  eighth  soul,  quite 
a  little  one,  and  after  that  again  half  a  soul ;  whilst  the 
Lithuanians  complain  that  the  life  of  an  old  woman  is  so 
tough  that  it  cannot  be  crushed  even  in  a  mill.  We  may 
take  it  as  an  echo  of  such  popular  ideas  that  murders  of 
old  people  are  extremely  common  even  in  the  most  civilised 
European  countries.  I  have  been  astonished  in  looking 
through  criminal  records  to  see  how  many  cases  there  are 
of  the  murder  of  old  people,  specially  of  old  women.  It  is 
easy  to  divine  the  motives  of  these  acts.  A  convict  of  the 
Island  of  Saghalien,  condemned  for  the  assassination  of 
several  old  persons,  declared  naively  to  the  prison  doctor  : 
"Why  pity  them?  They  were  already  old,  and  would 
have  died  in  any  case  in  a  few  years." 

In  the  celebrated  novel  of  Dostoiewsky,  "  Crime  and 
Punishment,"  there  is  a  tavern  scene  where  young  people 
discuss  all  sorts  of  general  topics.  In  the  middle  of  the 
conversation  a  student  declares  that  he  would  "  murder  and 
rob  any  cursed  old  woman  without  the  least  remorse." 
"  If  the  truth  were  told,"  he  goes  on  to  say,  "this  is  how 
I  look  at  the  thing.  On  the  one  hand  a  stupid  old  woman, 
childish,  worthless,  ill-tempered,  and  in  bad  health ;  no  one 
would  miss  her,  indeed  she  is  a  nuisance  to  evervone.  She 


does  not  even  herself  know  any  reason  why  she  should 
live,  and  perhaps  to-morrow  death  will  make  a  good  rid- 
dance of  her.  On  the  other  hand,  there  are  fresh  and 
vigorous  young  people  who  are  dying  in  their 
thousands,  in  the  most  senseless  way,  no  one  troubling 
about  them,  and  everywhere  the  same  thing  is  going  on." 

Old  people  not  only  run  the  risk  of  murder;  they  very 
often  end  their  own  lives  prematurely  by  suicide. 

They  prefer  death  to  a  life  oppressed  by  material  hard- 
ships or  burdened  by  diseases.  The  daily  papers  give  many 
instances  of  old  people  who,  tired  of  suffering,  asphyxiate 
themselves  by  their  charcoal  stoves. 

The  frequency  of  suicide  in  the  case  of  the  old  has  been 
established  by  numerous  statistics,  and  the  new  facts  which 
I  now  cite  do  no  more  than  confirm  it.  In  1878,  in 
Prussia,  amongst  100,000  individuals  there  were  154  cases 
of  suicide  of  men  between  the  ages  of  20  and  50,  but  295, 
that  is  to  say,  nearly  twice  as  many  of  men  between  the 
ages  of  50  and  80.  In  Denmark,  a  country  in  which 
suicide  is  notoriously  common,  a  similar  proportion  exists. 
Thus,  in  Copenhagen,  in  the  ten  years  from  1886  to  1895, 
there  were  394  suicides  of  men  between  50  and  70.  These 
figures  relate  to  100,000  individuals.  Of  the  suicides 
36^  per  cent,  were  those  of  people  in  the  prime  of  life, 
63 £  per  cent,  those  of  the  aged.1 

In  such  circumstances,  it  is  natural  that  politicians  and 
philanthropists  have  made  many  attempts  to  ameliorate  the 
old  age  of  the  poor.  In  some  countries  laws  have  been 
passed  to  bring  about  this.  For  instance,  a  Danish  law 
of  June  27th,  1891,  established  compulsory  aid  for  the 
aged,  enacting  that  every  person  more  than  60  years 
old  was  to  have  the  legal  right  to  aid  if  required.  In 
1896  more  than  36,000  people  (36,246)  were  pensioned 

1  Westergaard,  Mortalitaet  u.  Morbilitaet,  2nd.  Edit.,  190!,  pp.  653-655. 

B  2 


under  this  law,  at  a  cost  of  nearly  ,£200,000.  In  Belgium, 
the  indigent  old  people  are  not  pensioned  until  they  reach 
the  age  of  65.  In  France,  until  recently,  the  aged  poor 
could  be  supported  at  the  public  expense  only  by  prosecut- 
ing them  and  sending  them  to  prison  for  begging.  This 
state  of  affairs,  however,  ceased  with  the  application  of  the 
law  of  July  i5th,  1905,  according  to  which  any  French 
subject  without  resources,  unable  to  support  himself  by 
work,  and  either  more  than  70  years  of  age,  or  suffering 
from  some  incurable  infirmity  or  disease,  is  to  receive 
public  assistance. 

It  has  been  thought  the  proper  course  to  make  such  laws, 
and  to  lay  the  burden  on  the  general  population,  without 
inquiring  if  it  may  not  be  possible  to  retard  the  debility 
of  old  age  to  such  an  extent  that  very  old  people  might 
still  be  able  to  earn  their  livelihood  by  work.  Old  age 
can  be  studied  by  the  methods  of  exact  science,  and  there 
may  yet  be  established  some  regimen  by  which  health  and 
vigour  will  be  preserved  beyond  the  age  where  now  it  is 
generally  necessary  to  resort  to  public  charity.  With  this 
object,  a  systematic  investigation  of  senescence  should  be 
made  in  institutions  for  the  aged,  where  there  are  always 
a  large  number  of  people  from  75  to  90  years  old,  although 
centenarians  are  extremely  rare.  I  know  many  institu- 
tions for  aged  men  where,  from  their  first  foundation,  there 
has  been  no  case  of  an  inhabitant  reaching  the  age  of  100, 
and  even  in  similar  institutions  for  women,  although 
women  live  to  much  greater  ages  than  men,  centenarians 
are  very  rare.  At  the  Salpetriere,  for  instance,  where  there 
is  always  a  large  number  of  old  women,  it  is  the  rarest 
chance  to  find  a  centenarian.  Opportunity  for  the  study 
of  the  extremely  aged  is  to  be  found  only  in  private 


Most  of  the  centenarians  whom  I  have  been  able  to  see 
have  been  so  defective  mentally  that  all  that  can  be  studied 
in  them  are  the  physical  qualities  and  functions.  A  few 
years  ago  an  old  woman  who  had  reached  her  looth  year 
was  the  pride  of  the  Salpetriere.  She  was  bedridden  and 
extremely  feeble  physically  and  mentally.  She  replied 
briefly  when  she  was  asked  questions,  but  apparently  with- 
out any  idea  of  what  they  meant. 

Not  long  ago,  a  lady  who  lived  in  a  suburb  of  Rouen 
reached  her  looth  birthday.  The  local  newspapers  wrote 
exaggerated  articles  about  her,  praising  the  integrity  of  her 
mind  and  her  physical  strength.  I  paid  a  visit  to  her 
myself,  hoping  to  make  a  detailed  investigation,  but  I 
found  at  once  that  the  journalists  had  completely  misrepre- 
sented her  condition.  Although  her  physical  health  was 
fairly  good,  her  intelligence  had  degenerated  to  such  an 
extent  that  I  had  to  abandon  the  idea  of  any  serious  inves- 

The  most  interesting  of  all  the  centenarians  with  whom 
I  have  become  acquainted  had  reached  an  extremely 
advanced  age,  having  entered  upon  her  loyth  year.  It  is 
about  two  years  ago  that  a  journalist,  Monsieur  Flamans, 
took  me  to  see  this  Mme.  Robineau  who  lived  in  a  suburb 
of  Paris.  I  found  her  a  very  old-looking  lady,  rather 
short,  thin,  with  a  bent  back,  and  leaning  heavily  on  a 
cane  when  she  walked.  The  physical  condition  (Mme. 
Robineau  was  born  on  January  i2th,  1800),  of  this  woman 
of  more  than  106  years,  showed  extreme  decay.  She  had 
only  one  tooth ;  she  had  to  sit  down  after  every  few  steps, 
but,  once  comfortably  seated,  she  could  remain  in  that 
position  for  quite  a  long  time.  She  went  to  bed  early  and 
got  up  very  late.  Her  features  displayed  very  great  age 
(see  Fig.  i),  although  her  skin  was  not  extremely  wrinkled. 


FIG.   i. — Mme.   Robineau,  a  centenarian.       From  a   photograph  taken  on  her 
one  hundred  and  fifth  birthday. 

The  skin  of  her  hands  had  become  so  transparent  that  one 
could  see  the  bones,  the  blood-vessels,  and  the  tendons. 
Her  senses  were  very  feeble;  she  could  see  only  with  one 
eye ;  taste  and  smell  were  extremely  rudimentary ;  her  hear- 


ing  was  her  best  means  of  relation  with  the  external  world. 
None  the  less,  Dr.  Lowenberg,  a  well-known  aurist,  had 
assured  himself  that  her  auditory  organs  showed  in  a  most 
marked  degree,  the  usual  signs  of  old  age,  such  as  complete 
insensibility  to  high  notes  and  slight  deafness  for  low 
notes.  Dr.  Lowenberg  attributed  these  changes  to  senile 
degeneration  of  the  ear  which  affected  more  and  more 
seriously  the  nervous  mechanism  although  it  had  caused 
little  change  in  the  conducting  apparatus.  Notwithstand- 
ing her  physical  weakness,  Mme.  Robineau  retained  her 
intelligence  fully,  her  mind  remained  delicate  and  refined 
and  the  goodness  of  her  heart  was  touching.  In  contrast 
with  the  usual  selfishness  of  old  people,  Mme.  Robineau 
took  a  vivid  interest  in  those  around  her.  Her  conversation 
was  intelligent,  connected,  and  logical.  Examination  of 
the  physical  functions  of  this  old  lady  revealed  facts  of 
great  interest.  Dr.  Ambard  found  that  the  sounds  of  the 
heart  were  normal,  but  perhaps  a  little  accentuated.  The 
pulse  was  regular,  70  to  84  a  minute,  and  its  tension  was 
normal.  The  arterial  pressure  was  17.  The  lungs  were 
sound.  All  these  facts  testify  to  her  general  health.  The 
most  remarkable  circumstance  was  the  absence  of  sclerosis 
of  the  arteries,  although  such  degeneration  is  usually 
believed  to  be  a  normal  character  of  old  age. 

Analysis  of  the  urine,  made  on  several  occasions,  showed 
that  the  kidneys  were  affected  with  a  chronic  disease, 
which,  however,  was  not  serious.1 

Although  the  sense  of  taste  was  weak,  Madame  Robineau 

1  The  volume  of  the  urine  excreted  in  24  hours  (in  January  1905) 
was  500  c.c.,  with  a  density  of  1019.  There  was  no  albumen  or 
sugar.  The  quantity,  per  litre,  of  urea  was  1 1*50  gr.,  of  chlorides  9  gr., 
of  phosphates  ri5  gr.  The  sediment  contained  crystals  of  uric  acid, 
some  pavement  epithelium  cells,  a  very  few  cells  from  the  tubules,  some 
hyaline  platelets  and  isolated  white  corpuscles. 


had  a  fair  appetite.  She  ate  and  drank  little,  "but  her 
diet  was  varied.  She  took  butcher's  meat  or  chicken  ex- 
tremely seldom,  but  ate  eggs,  fish,  farinaceous  food,  vege- 
tables, and  stewed  fruit,  and  drank  sweetened  water  with 
a  little  white  wine,  and  sometimes,  after  a  meal,  a  small 
glass  of  dessert  wine.  The  processes  of  alimentary  diges- 
tion and  excretion  were  normal. 

It  has  sometimes  been  thought  that  duration  of  life  is 
a  hereditary  property.  There  was  no  evidence  for  this 
in  the  present  case.  Madame  Robineau's  relatives  had 
died  comparatively  early  in  life,  and  a  centenarian  was 
unknown  in  her  family.  Her  great  age  was  an  acquired 
character.  Her  whole  life  had  been  extremely  regular. 
She  had  married  a  timber  merchant,  and  had  lived  for 
many  years  in  a  suburb  of  Paris  in  comfortable  circum- 
stances. Her  character  was  gentle  and  affectionate;  she 
was  thoroughly  domesticated,  and  had  been  devoted  to 
home  life  with  very  few  distractions. 

At  the  age  of  106  years,  her  intelligence  suddenly  became 
weak.  She  lost  her  memory  almost  completely,  and  some- 
times wandered.  But  her  gentle  and  affectionate  disposi- 
tion remained  unaltered. 

The  appearance  of  aged  persons  is  too  well  known  to 
make  detailed  description  necessary.  The  skin  of  the  face 
is  dry  and  wrinkled  and  generally  pale;  the  hairs  on  the 
head  and  the  body  are  white;  the  back  is  bent,  and  the 
gait  is  slow  and  laborious,  whilst  the  memory  is  weak. 
Such  are  the  most  familiar  traits  of  old  age.  Baldness 
is  not  a  special  character;  it  often  begins  during  youth 
and  naturally  is  progressive,  but  if  it  has  not  already 
appeared,  it  does  not  come  on  with  old  age. 

The  stature  diminishes  in  old  age.  As  the  result  of  a 
series  of  observations,  it  has  been  established  that  a  man 


loses  more  than  an  inch  (3'i66  cm.),  and  a  woman  more 
than  an  inch  and  a  half  (4*3  cm.),  between  the  ages  of 
fifty  and  eighty-five  years.  In  extreme  cases,  the  loss 
may  be  nearly  three  inches.  The  weight  also  becomes 
less.  According  to  Quetelet,  males  attain  their  maximum 
weights  at  the  age  of  forty,  females  at  that  of  fifty.  From 
the  age  of  sixty  years  onwards,  the  body  becomes 
lighter,  the  loss  at  eighty  being  as  much  as  thirteen 

Such  losses  of  height  and  Weight  are  signs  of  the  general 
atrophy  of  the  aged  organism.  Not  merely  the  soft  parts, 
such  as  the  muscles  and  viscera,  but  even  the  bones  lose 
weight,  in  the  latter  case  the  loss  being  of  the  mineral 
constituents.  This  process  of  decalcification  makes  the 
skeleton  Brittle,  and  is  sometimes  the  cause  of  fatal  acci- 

Jfre  loss  of  muscular  tissue  is  specially  great.  The 
v61ume  diminishes,  and  the  substance  becomes  paler;  the 
fat  between  the  fibres  is  absorbed,  and  may  disappear 
completely.  Movements  are  slower,  and  the  muscular 
force  is  abated.  This  progressive  degeneration  has  been 
examined  by  dynamometrical  measurements  of  the  hand 
and  the  trunk,  and  is  greater  in  males  than  in  females. 

The  volumes  and  weights  of  the  visceral  organs  simi- 
larly become  smaller,  but  the  diminution  is  not  uniform. 

The  old  age  of  lower  mammals  presents  characters 
similar  to  those  found  in  man.  I  can  now  give  other 
instances  than  the  case  of  the  old  dog  which  I  described 
in  the  "  Nature  of  Man." 

I  will  first  take  the  case  of  old  elephants,  described  by 
a  competent  observer.  "The  general  appearance  is 
wretched,  the  skull  being  often  hardly  covered  with  skin ; 
there  are  deep  abrasions  under  the  eyes,  and  smaller  ones 


on  the  cheeks,  whilst  the  skin  of  the  forehead  is  very* 
often  deeply  fissured  or  covered  with  lumps.  The  eyes 
are  usually  dim,  and  discharge  an  abnormal  quantity  of 
water.  The  margin  of  the  ears,  specially  on  the  lower 
side,  is  usually  frayed.  The  skin  of  the  trunk  is  rough- 
ened, hard,  and  warty,  so  that  the  organ  has  lost  much 
of  its  flexibility.  The  skin  on  the  body  generally  is  worn 
and  wrinkled;  the  legs  are  thinner  than  in  maturity,  the 

FIG.  2. — A  Mare,  thirty-seven  years  old. 

huge  mass  of  muscles  being  much  shrunken,  whilst  the 
circumference,  especially  just  above  the  feet,  is  consider- 
ably reduced.  The  skin  round  the  toe-nails  is  roughened 
and  frayed.  The  tail  is  scaly  and  hard,  and  the  tip  is  often 

Horses  begin  to  grow  old  much  sooner  than  elephants. 
I  reproduce  (Fig.  2)  the  photograph  of  a  rare  instance  of 
longevity,  a  mare  37  years  old,  which  belonged  to  M. 


Me"taine,  in  the  department  of  Mayenne.  The  skin,  bare 
in  places,  but  elsewhere  covered  with  long  hairs,  shows 
considerable  atrophy.  The  general  attitude  reveals  the 
feebleness  of  the  whole  body.  Many  birds,  on  the  other 
hand,  show  at  similar  ages  very  slight  external  change,  as 
may  be  seen  from  the  photograph  of  a  duck  more  than  25 
years  old  (Fig.  3)  which  belonged  to  Dr.  Jean  Charcot.  At 
a  still  greater  age,  as  may  be  seen  occasionally  in  parrots, 

FIG.  3. — A  White  Duck,  which  lived  for  more  than  a  quarter  of  a  century. 

the  general  debility  of  the  body  reveals  itself  in  the  atti- 
tude, in  the  condition  of  the  feathers,  and  in  the  swelling 
of  the  joints.  On  the  other  hand,  the  oldest  reptiles  which 
have  been  observed  do  not  differ  in  appearance  from 
normal  adults  of  the  same  species.  I  have  in  my  posses- 
sion a  male  tortoise  (Testudo  mauritanica)  given  me  by 
my  friends  MM.  Rabaud  and  Caullery,  and  which  is  at 
least  86  years  old.  It  shows  no  sign  of  old  age,  and  in 


all  respects  behaves  like  any  other  individual  of  this 
species.  More  than  31  years  ago  it  was  wounded  by  a 
blow,  the  traces  of  which  remain  visible  on  the  right  side 
of  the  carapace  (Fig.  4).  In  the  last  three  years  the 
tortoise  lived  in  a  garden  at  Montauban,  along  with  two 
females  which  laid  fertile  eggs.  The  old  male,  although, 
as  I  have  said,  probably  at  least  86  years  of  age,  was  still 
sexually  healthy. 

I  have  borrowed  from  the  interesting  volume  of  Prof. 
Sir    E.    Ray    Lankester1    the    figure    (Fig.    5)    and    de- 

FIG.  4. — An  Old  Land-tortoise. 

scription  of  a  giant  tortoise  from  the  island  of  Mauritius, 
which  is  probably  the  oldest  of  all  living  animals.  It 
was  brought  to  Mauritius  from  the  Seychelles  in  1764, 
and  has  lived  since  then  in  the  garden  of  the  Governor, 
and  as  it  has  thus  already  been  140  years  in  captivity, 
its  age  must  be  at  least  150  years,  although  we  have  not 
exact  information.  Notwithstanding  this,  it  shows  no 
signs  of  old  age. 

The  examples  which  I  have  brought  together  show  that 

1  Extinct  Animals,  London,  1905,  pp.  28,  29. 


often  amongst  vertebrates  there  are  some  animals  the  organ- 
isms of  which  withstand  the  ravages  of  time  much  better 
than  that  of  man.  I  think  it  a  fair  inference  that  senility, 
the  precocious  senescence  which  is  one  of  the  greatest 
sorrows  of  humanity,  is  not  so  profoundly  seated  in  the 
constitution  of  the  higher  animals  as  has  generally  been 
supposed.  It  is  not  necessary,  therefore,  to  discuss  at 

FIG.  5. — A  Water-tortoise,  mere  than  150  years  old. 
(After  Prof.  Sir  E.  Ray  Lankester.) 

length  the  general  question  as  to  whether  senile  degenera- 
tion is  an  inevitable  event  in  living  organisms. 

I  have  already  shown,  in  the  "  Nature  of  Man,"  the  differ- 
ence which  exists  between  senile  degeneration  in  our  own 
bodies  and  the  phenomena  of  senescence  amongst  In- 
fusoria which,  as  M.  Maupas  described,  are  followed  by 
a  process  of  rejuvenescence.  According  to  the  more  recent 
results  of  several  investigators,  the  difference  is  still 
greater  than  I  had  supposed.  Enriquez l  has  been  able 
1  Rendiconti  d.  Accad.  d.  Lincei,  1906,  vol  xiv.  pp.  351,  390. 


to  propagate  Infusoria  to  the  7ooth  generation  without  any 
sign  of  senility  being  displayed.  Here  we  are  far  from 
the  condition  in  the  human  race. 

R.  Hertwig,1  one  of  the  best  observers  of  the  lower 
animals,  has  recently  attempted  to  show  that  the  very 
simple  animalculae  of  the  genus  Actinosphaerium  are 
subject  to  true  physiological  degeneration.  He  has  several 
times  seen  cultures  of  this  Rhizopod  degenerate,  until  all 
the  individuals  had  died,  notwithstanding  the  presence  of 
abundant  food.  Prof.  Hertwig  attributed  this  to  the  "  con- 
stitution of  the  Actinosphaerium  having  been  weakened  by 
too  great  vital  activity  at  an  earlier  stage."  I  should  have 
thought  that  it  was  a  much  more  natural  explanation  to 
suppose  that  the  culture  had  undergone  infection  by  one 
of  the  contagious  diseases  which  so  often  destroy  cultures 
of  different  kinds  of  lower  animals  and  plants.  As  this 
idea  had  not  occurred  to  the  observer,  he  had  not  searched 
for  parasitic  microbes  amongst  the  granulations  which  are 
always  present  in  the  body  of  an  Actinosphaerium.  How- 
ever this  may  be,  I  cannot  accept  the  facts  brought  forward 
by  this  distinguished  German  as  a  valid  proof  of  the  exist- 
ence of  senile  degeneration  in  these  lowly  creatures. 

The  facts  that  I  have  brought  together  in  this  chapter 
justify  the  conclusion  that  human  beings  who  reach  ex- 
treme old  age  may  preserve  their  mental  qualities  notwith- 
standing serious  physical  decay.  Moreover,  it  is  equally 
plain  that  the  organism  of  some  vertebrates  is-  able  to 
resist  the  influence  of  time  much  longer  than  is  the  case 
with  man  under  present  conditions. 

1  Ueb.  d.  physiologische  Degeneration  bet  Actinosphaerium  eicJiJiornii. 
Jena,  1904. 



Hypothesis  of  the  causation  of  senility — Senility  cannot  be 
attributed  to  the  cessation  of  the  power  of  reproduction  of 
the  cells  of  the  body — Growth  of  the  hair  and  the  nails  in 
old  age — Inner  mechanism  of  the  senescence  of  the  tissues — 
Notwithstanding  the  criticisms  of  M.  Marinesco,  the  neurono- 
phags  are  true  phagocytes — The  whitening  of  hair  and 
the  destruction  of  nerve  cells,  as  arguments  against  a  theory 
of  old  age  based  on  the  failure  of  the  reproductive  powers 
of  the  cells 

ALTHOUGH  it  has  not  been  proved  that  living  matter  must 
inevitably  undergo  senile  decrepitude,  it  is  none  the  less 
true  that  man  and  his  nearest  allies  generally  exhibit  such 
degeneration.  It  is  therefore  extremely  important  to  recog- 
nise the  real  causes  of  our  senescence.  There  have  been 
many  hypotheses  on  the  subject,  but  there  are  compara- 
tively few  definite  facts  known. 

Biitschli  has  supposed  that  the  life  of  cells  is  maintained 
by  a  specific  vital  ferment  which  becomes  feebler  in  pro- 
portion to  the  extent  of  cellular  reproduction,  but  I  cannot 
regard  this  as  more  than  a  pious  opinion.  The  ferment 
has  never  been  seen,  and  we  do  not  know  of  its  actual 
existence.  According  to  the  better-known  theory  of  Prof. 
Weismann,  old  age  depends  on  a  limitation  in  the  power 
of  cells  to  reproduce,  so  that  a  time  comes  when  the  body 
can  no  longer  replace  the  wastage  of  cells  which  is  an 


inevitable  accompaniment  of  life.  As  old  age  appears  at 
different  times  in  different  species  and  different  indivi- 
duals, Weismann  has  concluded  that  the  possible  number 
of  cell  generations  differs  in  different  cases.  He  has  not 
found,  however,  a  solution  of  the  problem  as  to  why  multi- 
plication of  cells  should  cease  in  one  individual,  whereas 
it  proceeds  much  further  in  other  individuals.  Prof. 
Minot,1  the  American  zoologist,  has  developed  a  similar 
theory,  and  has  employed  an  exact  method  to  determine 
the  gradual  diminution  in  the  rate  of  growth  of  an  animal 
from  its  birth  onwards.  According  to  him,  the  power 
of  reproduction  of  the  cells  weakens  progressively  during 
life,  until  a  point  is  necessarily  reached  at  which  the 
organism,  no  longer  capable  of  repairing  itself,  begins 
to  atrophy  and  degenerate.  Dr.  Buehler 2  has  recently  laid 
stress  upon  this  theory. 

There  is  no  doubt  that  cells  reproduce  much  more  actively 
during  the  embryonic  period.  The  process  becomes  slower 
later  on,  but,  none  the  less,  continues  to  display  itself 
throughout  the  whole  period  of  life.  Buehler  attributes 
the  difficulty  with  which  certain  wounds  heal  in  the  case 
of  old  people  to  the  insufficiency  of  cellular  reproduc- 
tion. He  thinks  in  particular  that  the  proliferation  of  the 
cells  of  the  skin,  to  replace  those  which  are  worn  off  from 
the  surface,  becomes  less  active  with  age.  According  to 
him,  it  is  theoretically  obvious  that  a  time  must  come 
when  the  replacement  of  the  epidermic  cells  completely 
ceases.  As  the  superficial  layers  of  the  skin  continue  to 
dry  up  and  be  cast  off,  it  is  plain  that  the  epidermis  must 
disappear  completely.  Buehler  thinks  that  there  must  be 

1  "Senescence    and     Rejuvenation,"    Journal   of  Physiology^    1891, 
t.  xii. 

2  Biologisches  Centralblatt,  1904,  pp.  65,  8 1,  113. 


a  similar  fate  for  the  genital  glands,  the  muscles,  and  all 
the  other  organs. 

These  theoretical  considerations,  however,  are  not  com- 
patible with  certain  well-known  facts  indicating  that  there 
is  no  general  cessation  of  the  power  of  cell  reproduction 
in  old  age.  The  hairs  and  the  nails,  which  are  epidermic 
outgrowths,  continue  to  grow  throughout  life,  their  growth 
being  due  to  the  proliferation  of  their  constituent  cells. 
There  is  no  sign  of  any  arrest  in  the  development  of  these 
structures,  even  in  the  most  advanced  old  age.  The  reverse 
is  true.  It  is  well  known  that  the  hairs  on  some  parts 
of  the  body  increase  in  number  and  in  length  in  old  people. 
In  some  lower  races,  for  instance  in  the  Mongols,  the 
moustache  and  the  beard  grow  vigorously  in  old  age, 
whilst  young  people  of  the  same  race  have  only  very  small 
moustaches  and  practically  no  trace  of  beard.  So  also 
in  white  women  the  fine  and  almost  invisible  down  which 
covers  the  upper  lip,  the  chin,  and  the  cheeks  in  the  young 
may  become  replaced  by  long  hairs  which  form  a  mous- 
tache or  beard. 

Dr.  Pohl,  a  specialist  in  the  growth  of  hair,  has  measured 
the  rate  of  growth  in  different  circumstances.  He  has 
shown  that  in  an  old  man  of  61  the  hair  on  the  temple 
grew  ii  mm.  in  a  month;  on  the  other  hand,  the  hair  on 
the  same  region  in  boys  of  n  to  15  years  old  grew  in  the 
same  time  only  from  11  to  12  mm.  Plainly,  there  is  no 
case  here  of  a  progressive  diminution  of  cell-proliferation 
with  age.  The  same  observer,  it  is  true,  has  shown  that 
the  hair  of  young  men  of  between  21  and  24  years  grew  at 
the  rate  of  15  mm.  a  month,  whilst  in  the  same  individuals, 
at  the  age  of  61  years,  the  rate  of  growth  was  only  1 1  mm. ; 
but  this  diminution  in  the  rate  of  growth  is  only  apparent. 
The  first  figure  concerned  the  hair  taken  from  different 



regions  of  the  scalp,  whilst  the  second  related  only  to  the 
hair  on  the  temples,  and  Dr.  Pohl  himself  has  shown  that, 
in  the  latter  region,  the  hair  grows  slower  than  in  other 
regions.  Moreover,  in  many  boys  of  11  to  15  years  old, 
studied  by  this  observer,  the  rate  of  growth  was  always 
less  than  15  mm.,  and  often  less  even  than  the  11  mm. 
recorded  in  the  old  man  of  61. 

I  have  been  able  to  note  that  the  nails  grow  even  in  very 
old  people.  In  the  case  of  Mme.  Robineau,  the  centena- 
rian, the  nail  of  the  middle  ringer  of  the  left  hand  grew 
2\  mm.  in  three  weeks.  In  the  case  of  a  lady  of  32  years 
old,  the  corresponding  nail  grew  3  mm.  in  two  weeks,  the 
difference  being  out  of  all  proportion  to  the  enormous 
difference  in  the  age.  The  centenarian's  nails  had  to  be 
cut  from  time  to  time. 

Although  the  hairs  of  old  people  grow,  they  become 
white,  which  is  a  phenomenon  of  senile  degeneration. 
Although  they  increase  in  length,  the  colouring  matter  in 
them  becomes  reduced  and  finally  disappears.  In  the 
"  Nature  of  Man  "  I  described  the  process  by  which  this 
blanching  takes  place,  and  which  may  now  be  regarded  as 
definitely  proved.  It  is  useful  as  a  means  of  interpreting 
the  real  nature  of  the  process  of  senescence.  In  several 
published  works,  I  have  explained  my  belief  that  just  as 
the  pigment  of  the  hair  is  destroyed  by  phagocytes,  so  also 
the  atrophy  of  other  organs  of  the  body,  in  old  age,  is  very 
frequently  due  to  the  action  of  devouring  cells  which  I 
have  called  macrophags.  These  are  the  phagocytes  that 
destroy  the  higher  elements  of  the  body,  such  as  the  nervous 
and  muscular  cells,  and  the  cells  of  the  liver  and  kidneys. 
This  part  of  my  theory  has  encountered  very  strong  criti- 
cism, especially  with  regard  to  the  part  played  by  the 
macrophags  in  the  senescence  of  nervous  tissue. 


Neurologists  in  particular,  have  criticised  my  interpreta- 
tion. For  several  years  M.  Marinesco1  has  attacked  my 
theory  of  the  atrophy  of  the  nerve-cells  in  old  age.  In  the 
first  place,  he  has  stated  that  in  old  people,  and  even  if 
these  are  very  old,  it  is  rare  to  find  phagocytes  surrounding 
and  devouring  the  cells  of  the  brain.  In  support  of  this 
contention,  he  has  been  good  enough  to  send  me  two  pre- 
parations made  from  the  brains  of  two  very  old  persons. 
After  careful  examination  I  was  convinced  that  my  oppo- 
nent had  been  inexact.  In  the  brain  of  the  two  centenarians 
(one  of  whom  died  at  the  age  of  1 17  years)  there  were  very 
many  nerve-cells  surrounded  by  phagocytes  and  in  process 
of  being  destroyed  by  them.  It  happened,  however,  that 
as  the  sections  were  very  weakly  stained,  it  was  more  diffi- 
cult to  observe  the  facts  than  in  the  preparations  upon 
which  I  had  made  my  own  observations.  I  have  already 
recorded  this  fact  in  the  second  and  third  French  editions 
of  the  "  Nature  of  Man." 

Without  taking  notice  of  my  reply,  M.  Marinesco  has 
published  another  criticism  of  my  theory  in  an  article'2 
entitled  "  Histological  Investigations  into  the  Mechanism  of 
Senility."  In  that  work,  although  he  himself  had  invented 
the  designation  "  neuronophag "  for  a  phagocyte  that 
devours  nerve-cells,  he  denies  the  existence  of  such  a  power. 
He  thinks  that  nerve-cells  atrophy  independently  of  the 
cells  that  surround  them.  The  latter,  the  so-called  neur- 
onophags,  only  contribute  to  the  atrophy  inasmuch  as  they 
press  against  the  nerve-cells  and  deprive  them  of  nutrition. 
He  is  confident  that  the  constituent  parts  of  nerve-cells  are 
never  found  in  the  neuronophags.  There  is  no  question  qf 

1  Com+tcs  rendus  de  TAcadtmie  des  sciences,  23  April,  1900. 

2  Revue  generate  des  sciences,  30  Dec.,  1904,  p.  1116. 

C  2 


phagocytosis,  of  the  existence  of  cells  that  devour  their 

M.  Leri  has  taken  a  similar  view  in  a  Report  on  the 
Senile  Brain1  presented  to  a  recent  congress  of  alienists 
and  neurologists.  According  to  him  "  the  nuclei  which 
surround  some  of  the  atrophying  nerve-cells  do  not  play 
the  part  of  neuronophags."  In  his  monograph  "  La 
Neuronophagie,"2  M.  Sand  elaborates  the  same  view.  He 
relies  on  his  observation  that  "  neuronophags  are  usually 
either  devoid  of  protoplasm  or  display  only  a  very  thin  layer 
of  it.  They  never  exhibit  protoplasmic  outgrowths,  and 
they  never  have  granules  in  their  cellular  bodies  (p.  86)." 
Still  more  recently  MM.  Laignel-Lavastine  and  Voisin a 
have  taken  the  same  view,  maintaining  that  the  neurono- 
phags do  not  display  phagocytosis. 

Although  I  cannot  undertake  here  to  give  a  detailed  reply 
to  the  arguments  of  my  critics,  I  may  point  out  a  fallacy 
that  vitiates  their  reasoning.  The  study  of  the  intimate 
structure  of  nervous  tissue  involves  the  treatment  of  that 
very  delicate  substance  by  numerous  active  reagents.  It  is 
extremely  important  not  to  forget  the  possibility  of  altera- 
tions which  may  be  produced  in  the  processes  of  preparation 
and  which  are  extremely  difficult  to  avoid.  A  glance  at  the 
figures  given  by  my  critics  shows  me  that  the  neurono- 
phags in  their  preparations  had  been  subjected  to  violent 
treatment.  When  M.  Leri  speaks  of  "the  nuclei  which 
surround  some  of  the  nerve-cells,"  and  M.  Sand  of  "  cells 
without  protoplasm,"  it  is  clear  that  they  had  been  observ- 
ing cells  destroyed  by  the  processes  of  the  laboratory.  The 

1  Le  Bulletin  mtdical,  1906,  p.  721  ;  Le  Cerveau  senile,  Lille,  1906, 
pp.  64-69. 

-  Mtmoires  couronnes  publics  par  FAcadtmie  royale  de  Belgique, 
Bruxelles,  1906. 

3  Revue  de  Medecine,  Nov.,  1906,  p.  870. 


illustrations  in  the  memoir  of  M.  Marinesco  show  that  in 
his  preparations,  too,  the  neuronophags  had  been  very 
greatly  altered. 

It  is  well  known  that  nuclei  do  not  exist  free  in  tissues, 
and  that  when  they  appear  devoid  of  protoplasm,  there  has 
been  some  defect  in  the  technical  methods  of  preparing 
them  for  examination.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  neuronophags 
do  not  consist  of  nuclei  with  at  the  most  a  pellicle  of  proto- 
plasm ;  like  other  cells,  they  have  protoplasmic  bodies 
which,  however,  are  frequently  destroyed  by  the  violent 
processes  of  histological  preparation. 

The  arguments  of  my  critics  recall  to  me  the  words  of  a 
medical  student,  who,  on  being  asked  to  describe  the 
microbe  of  tuberculosis,  said  that  it  was  a  little  red  bacillus. 
The  bacillus  in  question,  like  most  bacilli,  is  colourless, 
but  it  is  usual  to  stain  it  so  that  it  may  be  visible  under 
the  microscope.  The  student,  knowing  it  only  in  particu- 
lar preparations,  had  a  false  idea  of  its  appearance. 

In  well-made  preparations,  neuronophags  are  typical  cells 
with  abundant  protoplasm.  When  they  have  been  pre- 
served by  a  process  that  does  not  dissolve  their  contents, 
they  show  granules  like  those  found  in  nerve-cells. 

To  study  neuronophagy,  M.  Manouelian,1  in  the  labora^ 
tory  of  the  Pasteur  Institute  in  Paris,  set  himself  to  improve 
the  technical  methods  of  preparation.  He  succeeded  in 
showing  first  that  in  the  destruction  of  nerve-cells  that 
occurs  in  cases  of  hydrophobia,  the  contents  of  these  cells 
are  absorbed  by  the  surrounding  neuronophags.  "  My 
observations  on  the  cerebro-spinal  ganglia  of  human  cases 
of  hydrophobia,"  he  wrote,  "  show  clearly  that  the  macro- 
phags  act  as  phagocytes  of  the  nerve-cells."  "  Most  of  the 
cells  in  the  nerve-ganglia  contain  yellow,  brown,  and  black 
1  Annales  de  flnstitut  Pasteur ;  Oct.  1906,  p.  859. 


pigmented  granules,  usually  united  in  small  masses.  What 
becomes  of  these  granulations  on  the  destruction  and  dis- 
appearance of  the  nerve-cell?  If,  as  M.  Marinesco  has  it, 
there  is  no  phagocytosis  by  the  surrounding  cells,  but 
merely  a  mechanical  interference,  then  the  granules,  on  the 
destruction  of  the  nerve-cells  that  contained  them,  should 
be  found  lying  in  the  interstitial  tissue.  But  this  does  not 
happen.  The  granules  are  ingested  by  cells  which  are  true 

By  the  aid  of  a  very  delicate  mode  of  preparation,  M. 
Manouelian  has  shown  that  in  the  case  of  senile  brains 
the  granules  of  the  nerve-cells  are  absorbed  by  neurono- 
phags.  I  have  myself  studied  M.  Manouelian's  prepara- 
tions and  can  testify  to  the  accuracy  of  his  observations 
(Figs.  6  and  7). 

Doubt  is  no  longer  possible.  In  senile  degeneration  the 
nerve-cells  are  surrounded  by  neuronophags  which  absorb 
their  contents  and  bring  about  more  or  less  complete 
atrophy.  It  has  been  supposed  that  in  order  to  devour  their 
contents,  the  neuronophags  must  penetrate  the  nerve-cells, 
and  such  an  event  has  rarely  been  seen.  But  it  is  well 
known,  the  phagocytosis  of  red  blood  corpuscles  being  a 
typical  instance,  that  to  absorb  a  cell  a  phagocyte  does  not 
necessarily  engulf  it  bodily  or  penetrate  it,  but  may  gradu- 
ally denude  it  of  its  contents  merely  by  resting  in  contact 
with  it. 

There  has  been  some  discussion  as  to  the  condition  of 
nerve-cells  which  are  on  the  point  of  being  devoured  by 
neuronophags.  It  has  been  noticed  that  such  cells  may 
display  a  considerable  amount  of  degeneration  without 
being  devoured,  whilst,  on  the  other  hand,  cells  apparently 
normal  have  been  found  undergoing  phagocytosis.  As  I 
cannot  state  definitely  what  are  the  conditions  that  induce 


the  phagocytosis  of  nerve-cells,  I  shall  not  attempt  a  dis- 
cussion of  the  problem. 

Although  the  destruction  of  nerve-cells  by  neuronophags 
is  a  general  occurrence  in  senile  brains,  one  may  conceive 
of  cases  where  this  does  not  occur.  And  so,  in  old  people 
who  have  preserved  their  faculties,  it  may  well  be  that  the 
neuronophags  have  refrained  from  attacking  the  nerve-cells. 

FIG.  6. 

FIG.  7. 

FIGS.  6.  &  7.— Two  nerve-cells  from  the  cortex  of  the  brain  of  an  old  dog  aged 

fifteen  years. 

The  neuronophags  surrounding  the  nerve-cells  contain  numerous  granulations. 
(From  preparations  made  by  M.  Manouelian.) 

But  as  such  instances  are  rare,  so  also  phagocytosis  is 
usually  found  in  senile  brains,  and  I  cannot  accept  M. 
Sand's  denial  of  its  existence,  based  on  his  study  of  two 

The  general  result  of  my  investigation  into  the  criticisms 
that  have  been  published  on  this  matter  has  confirmed  me 
in  my  belief  that  neuronophagy  plays  a  most  important 


part  in  senescence,  and  recent  observations  that  I  have 
made  with  M.  Weinberg  have  completely  supported  this 

The  bleaching  of  hair  and  the  atrophy  of  the  brain  in 
old  age  thus  furnish  important  arguments  against  the  view 
that  senescence  is  the  result  of  arrest  of  the  reproduc- 
tive powers  of  cells.  Hairs  grow  old  and  become  white 
without  ceasing  to  grow.  The  cessation  of  the  power  of 
reproduction  cannot  be  the  cause  of  the  senescence  of  brain- 
cells,  for  these  cells  do  not  reproduce  even  in  youth. 



Action  of  the  macrophags  in  destroying  the  higher  cells — 
Senile  degeneration  of  muscular  fibres — Atrophy  of  the  skele- 
ton— Atheroma  and  arterial  sclerosis — Theory  that  old  age  is 
due  to  alteration  in  the  vascular  glands — Organic  tissues 
that  resist  phagocytosis 

THE  instances  which  I  have  selected  in  attempting  to 
describe  the  mechanism  of  senescence  of  the  tissues  are  not 
the  only  cases  in  which  the  importance  of  phagocytosis  is 
evident.  The  blanching  of  hair  is  due  to  the  destructive 
agency  of  chromophags;  in  atrophy  of  the  brain  neur- 
onophags  destroy  the  higher  nerve-cells.  In  addition  to 
these  instances  of  phagocytosis,  in  which  the  active  agents 
belong  to  the  category  of  macrophags,  there  are  many  other 
devouring  cells,  adrift  in  the  tissues  of  the  aged,  and  ready 
to  cause  destruction  of  other  cells  of  the  higher  type.  The 
phagocytic  action  is  not  so  manifest  as  in  the  case  of  infec- 
tious diseases,  partly  because  it  is  the  method  of  macro- 
phags to  absorb  the  contents  of  the  higher  cells  extremely 
slowly.  The  mode  of  action  is  well  seen  in  the  atrophy  of 
an  egg-cell  (Fig.  8),  where  the  surrounding  macrophags 
gradually  seize  hold  of  the  granules  within  it  and  carry 
these  off.  As  the  process  goes  on,  the  ovum  becomes 
reduced  to  a  shapeless  mass,  and  finally  leaves  only  a  few 


fragments,  or  disappears  completely.  M.  Matchinsky  l  has 
studied  the  series  of  events  in  my  laboratory,  and  I  am 
myself  well  assured  of  the  importance  of  the  action  of 
macrophags  in  the  atrophy  of  the  ovary. 

The  phenomena  of  atrophy  in  general  and  of  senile  decay 
afford  other  cases  of  tissue  destruction  in  which  the  phago- 

FIG.  8.— Ovum  of  a  Bitch  in  process  of  destruction  by  Phagocytes,  which  are  full 

of  fatty  granules. 
(After  M.  Matchinsky.) 

cytic  character  of  the  process  is  more  modified  and  obscure 
than  in  nerve-cells  and  ova. 

It  is  well  known  that  progressive  muscular  debility  is  an 
accompaniment  of  old  age.  Physical  work  is  seldom  given 
to  men  over  sixty  years  of  age,  as  it  is  notorious  that  they 
are  less  capable  of  it.  Their  muscular  movements  are 
feebler  and  soon  bring  on  fatigue ;  their  actions  are  slow 
and  painful.  Even  old  men  whose  mental  vigour  is  un- 
impaired admit  their  muscular  weakness.  The  physical 
1  Annales  de  FInstitut  Pasteur,  1900,  vol.  xiv.  p.  113. 


correlate  of  this  condition  is  an  actual  atrophy  of  the 
muscles,  and  has  for  long  been  known  to  observers.  More 
than  half  a  century  ago,  Kolliker,1  one  of  the  founders  of 
histology,  devoted  some  attention  to  this  matter,  and 
described  the  senile  modification  of  muscular  tissue  in  the 
following  words  : — "  In  old  age  there  is  a  true  atrophy  of 
the  muscles.  The  fibres  are  much  more  slender ;  there  are 
deposited  in  their  substance  numerous  yellow  or  brown 
granules  and  many  globular  nuclei.  These  nuclei  are  fre- 
quently arranged  in  longitudinal  series  and  present  such 
signs  of  active  division  as  are  found  in  embryonic  tissue." 

Other  investigators  afterwards  made  similar  observations. 
Vulpian3  and  Douaud3  have  stated  that  a  multiplication  of 
nuclei  takes  places  in  the  atrophying  muscles  of  the  old. 

As  the  senile  degeneration  of  muscular  tissue  appeared  to 
be  important  in  my  study  of  the  mechanism  of  senescence, 
M.  Weinberg  and  I  examined  several  qtases  of  muscular 
atrophy  in  old  human  beings  and  lower  animals.  We  were 
able  to  recognise  the  phenomena  observed  by  our  prede- 
cessors. In  senile  atrophy  the  muscular  fibres  contain 
many  nuclei,  and  these,  increasing  rapidly,  bring  about  an 
almost  complete  disappearance  of  the  contractile  substance 
(Fig.  9).  The  fibres  preserve  their  striation  for  a  certain 
time  but  eventually  lose  it  and  appear  to  contain  an  amor- 
phous mass  with  numerous,  rapidly  multiplying  nuclei. 

The  investigators  who  had  recorded  these  facts  thought 
of  them  only  as  curious.  It  is  plain,  in  the  first  place, 
however,  that  this  remarkable  and  rapid  multiplication  is  a 
proof  that  senile  atrophy  is  not  due  to  failure  of  cell  pro- 

1  Elements  (fhistologie  humaine,  French  translation,  1856,  p.  222. 

2  Lemons  sur  la  physiologie  du  systeme  nerveux,  1 866. 

3  De    la    degentrescence  graisseuse    des  muscles    chez   des   vieillards. 
Paris,  1867. 



liferation,  although  the  latter  has  frequently  been  suggested 
as  the  mechanism  of  senescence.  In  muscular  atrophy,  cell- 
multiplication,  so  far  from  failing,  greatly  increases.  We 
may  add  muscular  atrophy  to  the  blanching  of  hair  and  the 
decay  of  nerve-cells  as  another  instance  showing  that  senile 
degeneration  is  not  the  result  of  cells  ceasing  to  be  able  to 

FIG.  9. — Degeneration  of  striated  muscle  Fibres  from  the  auricular  muscle  of  a 

man  aged  87  years. 
(From  a  preparation  made  by  Dr.  Weinberg. ) 

multiply.  Just  as  in  the  atrophy  of  the  brain  there  is  an 
increase  in  the  volume  of  neurogloea,  the  substance  in  which 
the  neuronophags  are  found,  so  also  in  the  atrophy  of  the 
muscles  there  is  an  increase  of  muscular  nuclei.  Along 
with  the  increase  of  nuclei,  however,  there  is  an  increase  of 
the  protoplasmic  substance  of  the  fibres  known  as  sarco- 
plasm.  The  latter  replaces  the  myoplasm,  the  specific 
striated  substance  of  muscles,  by  a  process  which  must  be 


regarded  as  parallel  with  phagocytosis.  In  a  normal  muscle 
the  two  substances  and  the  sarcoplasmic  nuclei  are  in 
equilibrium,  but  in  old  age  the  sarcoplasm  and  its  nuclei 
increase  at  the  expense  of  the  myoplasm.  The  equilibrium 
is  destroyed  with  the  result  that  the  muscular  power  is 
weakened.  In  these  conditions  the  sarcoplasm  acts  phago- 
cytically  with  regard  to  the  myoplasm,  just  as  the  chromo- 
phag  becomes  the  phagocyte  of  the  pigment  of  the  hair, 
or  the  neuronophag  devours  the  nerve-cell. 

The  investigation  of  other  cases  of  muscular  atrophy,  as, 
for  instance,  that  of  the  caudal  muscles  of  frog-tadpoles, 
confirms  the  significance  of  the  process  that  I  have  observed 
in  old  age.  In  the  two  cases,  what  takes  place  is  the 
destruction  of  the  contractile  material  of  the  muscles  by 
myophags,  a  special  kind  of  phagocyte. 

It  is  one  of  the  curiosities  of  senile  atrophy  that  whilst 
there  is  hardening  or  sclerosis  of  so  many  organs,  the  skele- 
ton, the  most  solid  part  of  our  frame-work,  becomes  less 
dense,  so  that  the  bones  are  friable,  the  condition  often 
leading  to  serious  accidents  in  old  people.  The  bones 
become  porous,  and  lose  weight.  It  is  difficult  to  believe 
that  macrophags,  although  they  destroy  softer  elements 
such  as  nerve-cells  or  muscle  fibres,  can  be  able  to  gnaw 
through  a  hard  material  like  bone  impregnated  with 
mineral  salts.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  the  mechanism  of  bone 
atrophy  must  be  placed  in  a  different  category  from  the 
phagocytosis  of  other  organs.  It  is  brought  about,  how- 
ever, by  the  agency  of  cells  very  like  some  of  the  macro- 
phags. These  cells  contain  many  nuclei,  and  are  known 
as  osteoclasts.  They  form  round  about  the  bony  lamellae 
and  lead  to  their  destruction,  but  are  incapable  of  breaking 
off  fragments  of  bone  and  dissolving  them  in  their  interiors. 
Although  the  intimate  mechanism  of  this  destructive  action 


is  not  thoroughly  understood,  it  seems  probable  that  the 
cells  secrete  some  acid  which  softens  bone  by  dissolving 
the  lime  salts.  The  process  can  be  observed  in  the  different 
varieties  of  caries  of  the  bone,  and  in  the  bony  atrophy  of 
old  age  as  is  represented  in  Fig.  10. 

By  the  action  of  the  osteoclasts,  which  themselves  are 
macrophags,  part  of  the  lime  in  the  skeleton  is  dissolved 
during  old  age  and  passes  into  the  general  circulation. 
This  is  probably  a  source  of  the  lime  which  is  deposited 
so  readily  in  the  different  tissues  of  old  people.  Whilst  the 
bones  become  lighter,  the  cartilages  become  bony,  the  inter- 

FlG.  io.— Destruction  by  osteoclasts  of  bony  matter  in  the  sternum  of  a  man  aged 

8 1  years. 
(From  a  preparation  made  by  Dr.  Weinberg.) 

vertebrate  discs  in  particular  becoming  impregnated  with 
salts,  so  that  the  well-known  senile  malformation  of  the 
backbone  is  produced. 

As  a  result  of  this  displacement  of  lime  in  old  age,  the 
blood-vessels  become  modified  in  a  distinctive  fashion. 
Atheroma  of  the  arteries  is  not  invariable  in  old  people,  but 
it  occurs  extremely  frequently.  In  this  form  of  degenera- 
tion, lime  salts  are  deposited  in  the  walls  of  the  cells,  so  that 
they  become  hard  and  friable.  Several  others,  among 
whom  I  may  mention  Durand-Fardel  and  Sauvage,  have 
laid  stress  on  the  coincidence  of  atheromatous  lesions  of  the 
arteries  and  senile  degeneration  of  the  bones.  The  relations 


between  the  two  alterations  are  very  evident  in  the  skull ; 
the  meningeal  artery  becomes  sinuous  and  atheromatous, 
and  the  grooves  on  the  inner  side  of  the  bones  of  the  skull  in 
which  it  runs,  flatten  out,  and  become  larger  because  of 
other  malformations.1 

There  is  no  disharmony  in  the  nature  of  old  people  so 
striking  as  this  transference  of  the  lime  salts  from  the 
skeleton  to  the  blood-vessels,  producing  as  it  does  a  danger- 
ous softening  of  the  former,  and  a  hardening  of  the  latter 
that  interferes  with  their  function  of  carrying  nutrition  to 
the  organs.  It  is  the  manifestation  of  an  extraordinary 
disturbance  of  the  properties  of  the  cells  that  compose  the 
body.  The  atheromatous  condition  of  the  arteries  is  closely 
linked  with  arterial  sclerosis,  an  affection  which  is  very 
common,  although  not  constant,  in  the  aged.  The  whole 
question  of  these  vascular  alterations  is  extremely  complex, 
and  before  it  can  be  cleared  up,  a  number  of  special  inves- 
tigations must  be  made. 

Probably  diseases  of  the  arteries  of  different  kinds,  and 
arising  from  different  causes,  are  grouped  under  the  terms 
atheroma  and  sclerosis.  In  some  cases  the  lesions  are  in- 
flammatory and  are  due  to  the  poisons  of  microbes.  An 
example  of  such  an  origin  is  the  case  of  syphilitic  sclerosis, 
in  which  the  specific  microbes  (spirilla  of  Schaudinn)  lead 
to  precocious  senescence.  In  other  cases  the  arteries  show 
phenomena  of  degeneration  resulting  in  the  formation  of 
calcareous  platelets  which  interfere  with  the  circulation  of 
the  blood. 

Investigations  which   have  been  made  in   recent  years 

have  led  to  very  interesting  results  concerning  the  origin 

of  atheroma  of  the  arteries.     In   most  cases,  attempts  to 

produce    such    lesions    of    the   arteries   by    experimental 

1  Demange,  £tude  sur  la  vieillesse,  1886,  p.  1 18. 


methods  have  not  succeeded,  but  M.  Josue"1  has  been  able 
to  produce  true  arterial  atheroma  in  rabbits  by  injecting 
into  them  adrenaline,  the  secretion  of  the  suprarenal  cap- 

This  experiment  has  been  repeated  many  times  and  is 
now  well  known.  Later  on,  M.  Boveri2  obtained  a  similar 
result  by  injecting  nicotine,  the  poison  of  tobacco.  It  is 
obvious,  therefore,  that  amongst  the  arterial  diseases  which 
play  so  great  a  part  in  senescence,  some  are  chronic  inflam- 
mations produced  by  microbes,  whilst  others  are  brought 
about  by  poisons  introduced  from  without. 

It  is  easy  to  understand,  therefore,  why  these  diseases  of 
the  arteries  are  not  always  present  in  old  age,  although 
they  are  very  common. 

The  part  played  by  the  secretion  of  the  suprarenal  glands 
in  the  production  of  arterial  disease  has  brought  renewed 
attention  to  a  theory  which  supposed  that  certain  glandular 
organs  in  the  body  play  a  preponderating  part  in  senile 
degeneration.  Dr.  Lorand3  in  particular  has  argued  that 
"  senility  is  a  morbid  process  due  to  the  degeneration  of  the 
thyroid  gland  and  of  other  ductless  glands  which  normally 
regulate  the  nutrition  of  the  body."  It  has  long  been 
noticed  that  persons  affected  with  myxodema,  as  a  result 
of  the  degeneration  of  the  thyroid  gland,  look  like  very  old 
people.  Everyone  who  has  seen  the  cretins  in  Savoy, 
Switzerland,  or  the  Tyrol,  must  have  noticed  the  aged 
appearance  of  these  victims,  although  very  often  they  are 
quite  young.  The  condition  of  cretinism,  with  its  pro- 
found bodily  changes,  is  the  result  of  degeneration  of  the 
thyroid  gland.  On  the  other  hand,  it  is  well  known  that 

1  C.  fi.  de  la  Socie'te'  de  Biologic,  14  November,  1903. 

2  Clinica  medica,  1905,  n.  6. 

3  Bulletins  de  la  Sotiete  royale  des  sciences-medicales  de  Bruxelles,  1905, 
n.  4,  p.  105. 


in  old  people  the  thyroid  and  the  suprarenals  frequently 
show  cystic  degeneration.  It  is  quite  probable,  therefore, 
that  these  so-called  vascular  glands  have  their  share  in 
producing  senility.  Many  facts  show  that  they  destroy 
certain  poisons  which  have  entered  the  body,  and  it  is  easy 
to  see  that,  if  they  have  become  functionless,  the  tissues 
are  threatened  with  poisoning.  It  does  not  follow,  how- 
ever, that  their  action  in  producing  senility  is  exclusive,  or 
even  preponderating.  M.  Weinberg,  at  the  Pasteur  Insti- 
tute, made  special  investigations  on  this  point,  and  found 
that  the  thyroid  gland  and  the  suprarenal  capsules  were 
almost  invariably  normal  in  old  animals  (cat,  dog,  horse), 
although  the  latter  showed  unmistakable  signs  of  senility. 
Similarly  in  an  old  man  of  80  years,  who  died  from  pneu- 
monia, the  thyroid  gland  was  quite  normal. 

It  must  not  be  forgotten  that  the  aged  very  often  die 
from  infectious  diseases  such  as  pneumonia,  tuberculosis, 
and  erysipelas.  In  these  diseases  the  vascular  glands 
generally,  and  the  thyroid  gland  in  particular,  are  very 
often  affected,  with  the  .result  that  what  is  due  to  infection 
has  been  set  down  as  a  symptom  of  old  age.1 

Although  the  appearance  of  patients  from  whom  the 
thyroid  gland  has  been  removed,  or  in  whom  it  has  degene- 
rated spontaneously,  recalls  that  of  old  people,  it  is  possible 
to  exaggerate  the  similarity.  In  the  masterly  accounts  of 
such  unfortunates,  recently  compiled  by  the  well-known 
surgeon  Kocher2  there  are  many  points  which  are  char- 
acteristic,  without  being  typical,  of  old  people. 

Oedema  of  the  skin  which  characterises  thyroid  patients 

1  Sarbach,  Mittheilungen  a.  d.   Grenzqeb.  d.   Med.  u.  CAir.,  vol.  xv.' 

2  Verhandlungen  d.  Kongr.  f.  innere  Medicin.  Wiesbaden,  1906,  pp. 
59,  98- 



is  by  no  means  usual  in  old  age.  The  loss  of  hair,  normal 
in  the  patients,  is  not  a  character  of  old  age.  In  myx- 
edematous  women,  menstruation  is  very  active;  it  ceases 
in  old  women.  The  great  muscular  development  of 
myxedematous  patients  distinguishes  them  from  old  people. 

Physiological  investigation  does  not  support  the  exist- 
ence  of  any  strong  affinity  between  old  age  and  affection 
of  the  thyroid  gland.  It  is  known  that  removal  of  the 
thyroid  is  followed  by  cachexia  only  in  young  subjects^ 
MM.  Bourneville  and  Bricon l  having  shown  that  the 
tendency  to  cachexia  after  extirpation  of  the  thyroid  ceases 
almost  abruptly  at  the  age  of  thirty.  That  age  may  be 
taken  as  the  limit  of  youth,  of  the  time  when  growth  is 
vigorous  and  the  function  of  the  thyroid  most  active.  Cases 
of  cachexia,  where  the  thyroid  gland  has  been  removed  in 
old  persons  from  fifty  to  seventy,  are  very  .rare. 

Rodents  (rats,  rabbits)  support  the  removal  of  the  thyroid 
extremely  well,  without  signs  of  cachexia,  although  these 
are  normally  short-lived  creatures.  According  to  Horsley  2 
extirpation  of  the  thyroid  is  not  followed  by  cachexia  in 
birds  or  rodents  and  is  followed  by  it  only  very  slowly  in 
ruminants  and  horses ;  it  produces  the  condition  invariably 
but  slightly  in  man  and  monkeys  and  extremely  seriously 
in  carnivora.  If  this  series  be  compared  with  the  informa- 
tion given  in  the  next  section  of  this  volume  on  the  relative 
ages  which  the  animals  in  question  attain,  it  will  be  seen 
that  there  is  no  correspondence. 

In  short,  whilst  I  do  not  deny  that  the  vascular  glands 
may  take  a  share  in  the  causation  of  senility,  in  so  far  as 

1  Archives  de  Neurologie,  1886. 

2  Die   Function   d.   Schilddruse,    Virchou/s  Festschrift,  vol.   i.  1891, 
p.  369. 


they  are  destroyers  of  poisons,  I  cannot  agree  with  the 
theory  of  Dr.  Lorand. 

I  think  it  indubitable  that  in  senescence  the  most  active 
factor  is  some  alteration  in  the  higher  cells  of  the  body, 
accompanied  by  a  destruction  of  these  by  macrophags 
which  gradually  usurp  the  places  of  the  higher  elements  and 
replace  them  by  fibrous  tissue.  Such  a  process  affects  the 
organs  of  secretion  (kidneys),  the  reproductive  organs,  and 
in  a  modified  form  the  skin,  the  mucous  membranes,  and 
the  skeleton.  The  testes  are  amongst  the  organs  which 
resist  invasion  by  macrophags. 
I  have  already  given  an  ex- 
ample ("  The  Nature  of  Man," 
p.  98)  of  an  old  man  of  94  in 
whom  active  spermatozoa  were 
produced.  I  know  of  a  similar 
case,  the  age  being  103  years. 
Such  cases  are  not  rare,  and  not 
only  in  old  men,  but  in  old 
animals,  the  testes  continue  to  FIG.  n.— Testis  tissue  from  a  dog 

aged  twenty-two  years. 
be  active.      Dr.  Wemberg  and       (From  a  preparation  made  by  Dr. 

I      have      investigated      these  Weinberg.) 

organs  in  a  dog  which  died  at  the  age  of  22  years  after 
several  years  of  pronounced  senility.  Many  of  the  organs 
of  the  animal  exhibited  serious  invasions  by  macrophags 
but  the  testes  were  extremely  active,  the  cells  being  in 
free  proliferation  and  producing  abundant  spermatozoa 
(Fig.  11).  In  harmony  with  this  condition  of  the 
sexual  organs,  the  sexual  instincts  of  the  animal  remained 
normal.  We  have  investigated  another  dog  which  died 
at  the  age  of  eighteen  years.  In  this  case  the  testes  were 
cancerous  and  there  was  no  possibility  of  the  production  of 
spermatozoa.  None  the  less,  this  dog  although  markedly 

D  2 


senile  (Fig.  12)  still  showed  sexual  instincts  until  shortly 
before  it  died. 

It  is  manifest  that  the  tissues  do  not  invariably  degene- 
rate in  old  age,  nor  do  all  the  organs  that  are  modified  in 
old  age  show  destruction  by  phagocytes  and  replacement 
by  connective  tissue.  Organs  which  produce  phagocytes, 
such  as  the  spleen,  the  spinal  marrow  and  the  lymphatic 
glands,  certainly  show  traces  in  old  age  of  fibrous  degenera- 

FIG.   12.— An  old  dog,  iged  eighteen  years. 

tion  but  remain  sufficiently  active  to  produce  macrophags 
which  destroy  the  higher  cellular  elements  of  the  body.  I 
have  frequently  noticed  cell  division  in  such  organs,  and 
as  an  example  inay  give  the  case  of  the  bone  marrow  taken 
from  a  man  of  81  years  (Fig.  13). 

The  eye  is  an  organ  that  is  modified  in  old  age  without 
the  action  of  macrophags.  Cataract  and  the  senile  arc 
which  appears  as  a  milky  ring  at  the  edge  of  the  cornea 


are  frequent  in  old  age.  These  modifications  are  due  to 
impregnation  of  the  parts  affected  by  fatty  matter  which 
makes  them  opaque.  This  deposition  of  fat1  has  been 
attributed  to  defective  nutrition.  In  most  organs  such 
fatty  degeneration  is  followed  by  phagocytosis,  but  the 
cornea  and  the  crystalline  lens  are  exempt  from  this  conse- 
quence for  anatomical  reasons.  Most  organs  possess  in 
addition  to  their  higher  elements  a  constant  source  of 
macrophags.  Such  a  source  of  phagocytosis  is  the  neuro- 
glcea  in  nervous  tissues,  the  A 

sarcoplasm  in  muscular  tis- 
sues ;  the  bones  contain  osteo- 
clasts  and  the  liver  and  the 
kidneys  are  readily  invaded  by 
phagocytes  from  the  blood. 
The  lens  and  the  cornea  have 
no  cells  that  are  able  to  become 
macrophags.  FlG  I3<_Bone  marrow  from  the 

Some      infectious      diseases  sternum  of  a  man  aged  eighty- 

one  years. 

bring  about  precocious  SCnil-  (From  a  preparation  made  by  Dr. 
ity.  A  syphilitic  child  is  "a  Weinberg.) 

miniature  old  man,  with  wrinkled  face,  skin  dull 
and  discoloured  and  flabby  and  hanging  in  folds  as 
if  it  were  too  large."2  In  such  a  case  the  active 
agent  is  the  microbe  of  syphilis  which  has  poisoned 
the  child  on  the  breast  of  its  mother.  It  is  no  mere  analogy 
to  suppose  that  human  senescence  is  the  result  of  a  slow  but 
chronic  poisoning  of  the  organism.  Such  poisons,  if  not 
completely  destroyed  or  eliminated,  weaken  the  tissues,  the 
functions  of  which  become  altered  or  enfeebled,  so  that, 

1  Fuss,  Der  Greisenbogen,  in   Virchotv's  Archi-v,  1905,  vol.  clxxxii.  p. 
407  ;  S.  Toufesco,  Sur  le  cristallin,  Paris,  1906. 

2  Edmond  Fournier,  Stigmates  dystrophiques  de  PhMdosyphilis,  Paris, 
1898,  p.  4.  * 


amongst  other  changes,  there  is  deposition  of  fatty  matter. 
The  phagocytes  resist  the  influence  of  invading  poisons 
better  than  any  of  the  other  cells  of  the  body  and  some- 
times are  stimulated  by  them.  The  general  result  of 
such  conditions  is  that  there  comes  to  be  a  struggle  between 
the  higher  cells  and  the  phagocytes  in  which  the  latter  have 
the  advantage. 

The  answer  to  the  question  as  to  whether  our  senescence 
can  be  ameliorated  must  be  approached  from  several  points 
of  view.  This  course  I  shall  now  follow. 





Relation  between  longevity  and  size — Longevity  and  the 
period  of  growth — Longevity  and  the  doubling  in  weight 
after  birth — Longevity  and  rate  of  reproduction — Probable 
relation  between  longevity  and  the  nature  of  the  food 

THE  duration  of  the  life  of  animals  varies  within  very 
wide  limits.  Some,  as  for  instance,  the  males  of  certain 
wheel  animalculae  (Rotifera)  complete  their  cycle  of  life 
from  birth  to  death  in  50  or  60  hours,  whilst  others,  like 
some  reptiles,  live  more  than  100  years,  and  quite  possibly 
may  live  for  two  or  three  centuries. 

Enquiry  has  been  made  for  many  years  as  to  whether 
there  are  laws  governing  these  different  durations  of  life. 
Even  the  most  casual  observation  of  domesticated  animals 
has  shown  that,  as  a  general  rule,  small  animals  do  not 
live  so  long  as  large  ones ;  mice,  guinea  pigs,  and  rabbits 
for  instance,  have  shorter  lives  than  geese,  ducks,  and 
sheep,  whilst  these  again  are  survived  by  horses,  deer, 
and  camels.  Of  all  the  mammals  which  have  lived  under 
the  protection  of  man,  the  elephant  is  at  once  the  largest, 
and  the  most  long-lived. 

However,  it  is  not  difficult  to  show  that  there  is  no 
absolute  relation  between  size  and  longevity,' since  parrots, 
ravens,  and  geese  live  much  longer  than  many  mammals, 
and  than  some  much  larger  birds. 


As  a  general  rule  it  may  be  said  that  a  large  animal  takes 
more  time  than  a  small  one  to  reach  maturity,  and  it  has 
been  inferred  from  this  that  the  length  of  the  periods  of 
gestation  and  of  growth  were  in  proportion  to  the  longe- 
vity. Buffon  1  long  ago  stated  his  opinion  that  the  "  total 
duration  of  life  bore  some  definite  relation  to  the  length 
of  the  period  of  growth."  Therefore,  as  the  period  of 
growth  is,  so  to  say^  inherent  in  the  species,  longevity 
would  have  to  be  regarded  as  a  very  stable  phenomenon. 
Just  as  any  species  has  acquired  a  fixed  and  practically 
invariable  size,  so  it  would  have  acquired  a  definite  longe- 
vity. Buffon,  therefore,  thought  that  the  duration  of  life 
did  not  depend  on  habits  or  mode  of  life,  or  on  the  nature 
of  food,  that,  in  fact,  nothing  could  change  its  rigid  laws, 
except  an  excess  of  nourishment. 

Taking  as  his  standard  the  total  period  of  development 
of  the  body,  Buffon  came  to  the  conclusion  that  the  dura- 
tion of  life  is  six  or  seven  times  that  of  the  period  of 
growth.  Man,  for  instance,  he  said,  who  takes  14  years 
to  grow,  can  live  6  or  7  times  that  period,  that  is  to  say, 
90  or  roo  years.  The  horse,  which  reaches  its  full  size 
in  4  years,  can  live  6  or  7  times  that  length  of  time,  that 
is  to  say  from  25  to  30  years.  The  stag  takes  5  or  6 
years  to  grow,  and  reckoned  in  the  same  way,  its  longevity 
should  be  35  to  40  years. 

Flourens2  although  supporting  his  principle,  thought 
that  Buffon  had  been  inexact  in  calculating  the  period 
of  growth.  In  his  opinion  a  better  result  can  be  obtained 
by  taking  the  limit  of  growth  as  that  age  at  which  the 
epiphyses  of  the  long  bones  unite  with  the  bones  them- 

1  Histoire  natitrelle  gtntrale  et  particultire,  vol.  ii.  Paris,  1749. 

2  De  la  longtvitl  humaine  et  de  la  quantitt  de  vie  sur  le  globe ',  Paris, 


selves.  Using  such  a  mode  of  computation,  Flourens  laid 
down  that  an  animal  lived  5  times  the  length  of  its  period 
of  growth.  Man,  for  instance,  takes  20  years  to  grow,  and 
he  can  live  for  5  times  that  space,  that  is  to  say,  100  years ; 
the  camel  takes  8  to  grow,  and  lives  5  times  as  long, 
i.e.,  40  years;  the  horse,  5  to  grow,  and  lives  25  years. 

However,  even  if  we  consider  only  the  mammalia,  it  is 
impossible  to  accept  Flourens'  law,  without  considerable 
reserve.  Weismann  l  has  referred  to  the  case  of  the  horse, 
which  is  completely  adult  at  4,  but  lives  not  merely  5 
times  that  period,  but  10  or  even  12  times.  Mice  grow 
extremely  quickly,  so  that  they  are  able  to  reproduce  at 
the  age  of  4  months.  Even  if  we  take  6  months  as  their 
period  of  growth,  their  longevity  of  5  years  is  twice  as 
long  as  it  would  be  according  to  the  rule  of  Flourens. 
Amongst  domesticated  animals,  the  sheep  is  slow  in  reach- 
ing maturity ;  it  does  not  acquire  its  adult  set  of  teeth  until 
it  is  5  years  old,  and  cannot  be  regarded  as  adult  until 
then.  None  the  less,  at  the  age  of  8  or  10  years,  it  loses 
its  teeth  and  begins  to  grow  old,  whilst  by  14  it  is  quite 
senile.2  The  longevity  of  the  sheep,  therefore,  is  not  quite 
three  times  its  period  of  growth. 

If  we  turn  to  other  vertebrates,  the  variations  in  the 
relation  of  growth  and  the  duration  of  life  are  still  greater. 
Parrots,  for  instance,  the  longevity  of  which  is  extremely 
great,  grow  very  quickly.  At  the  age  of  2  years,  they 
have  acquired  the  adult  plumage  and  are  able  to  repro- 
duce, whilst  the  smaller  species  are  in  the  same  condition 
at  the  age  of  one.  Incubation,  moreover,  is  very  short, 
not  more  than  25  days,  and  in  some  species  not  three 
weeks.  None  the  less,  parrots  are  birds  which  enjoy  a 

1  Ueber  die  Dauer  des  Lebens,  Jena,  1882,  p.  4. 

2  Brehm,  La  vie  des  animaux,  Mammtjeres,  vol.  ii.  p.  623. 


quite  remarkable  longevity.  The  incubation  period  of 
domestic  geese  is  30  days,  and  their  period  of  growth  is 
also  short.  However,  they  may  reach  a  great  age,  cases 
of  80  years  and  of  100  years  being  on  record.  In  contrast 
with  these,  ostriches,  the  incubation  period  of  which  is 
42  to  49  days,  and  which  take  3  years  to  become  adult, 
have  a  relatively  short  life. 

H.  Milne-Edwards1  many  years  ago  contended  that 
there  was  no  importance  in  the  supposed  law  of  relation 
between  gestation  and  longevity.  He  sums  up  his  criticism 
as  follows  :  "  Although  the  period  of  uterine  life  is  longer 
in  the  horse,  that  animal  does  not  live  so  long  as  a  human 
being;  and  some  birds,  the  incubation  of  which  only  lasts 
a  few  weeks,  can  live  more  than  a  century." 

Bunge2  has  recently  taken  up  the  study  of  the  relations 
between  the  duration  of  growth  and  longevity,  and  has 
suggested  a  new  means  of  investigation.  He  has  observed 
that  the  period  in  which  the  new-born  mammal  doubles 
its  weight  is  a  good  index  of  the  rapidity  of  its  growth. 
He  has  shown  that  whilst  a  human  child  requires  180 
days  to  reach  double  its  weight  at  birth,  the  horse,  the 
longevity  of  which  is  very  much  less,  doubles  its  weight 
in  60  days;  a  calf  takes  only  47  days  for  this;  a  kid  15 
days;  a  pig  14  days;  a  cat  9^;  and  a  dog  only  9  days. 
Although  these  facts  are  very  interesting,  the  exceptions 
are  too  great  to  make  it  possible  to  base  a  law  of  longevity 
upon  them.  The  period  of  weight-doubling  in  the  horse 
is  nearly  7  times  longer  than  that  in  the  dog,  and  yet  the 
longevity  of  the  horse  is  not  more  than  3  times  that  of 
the  dog.  The  goat,  which  takes  much  longer  than  the 
dog  to  double  its  weight,  has  a  shorter  total  life. 

1  Leqons  sur  la    physiologic  et  P  anatomic  comparee,   vol.   ix.    1870, 
p.  446. 

2  Archivf.  die  gesammte  Physiologic^  Bonn,  1903,  vol.  xcv.  p.  606. 


I  observed  myself  that  new-born  mice  quadruple  their 
weight  in  the  first  24  hours.  The  doubling  of  weight 
in  their  case  requires  a  time  36  times  less  long  than  that 
of  the  cat,  and  yet  the  cat  lives  only  5  times  as  long  as 
the  mouse. 

It  is  fair  to  say,  however,  that  Bunge  himself  does  not 
draw  a  definite  conclusion  from  these  figures  and  has 
published  them  only  to  stimulate  interest  in  the  subject. 
He  is  against  the  view  of  Flourens,  and  points  out  that 
although  the  multiple  5  is  valid  for  man,  it  is  not  so  in 
the  case  of  the  horse  which  finishes  its  growth  in  4  years 
and  yet  reaches  the  age  of  40  much  less  often  than  human 
beings  attain  that  of  100  years. 

Although  it  is  impossible  to  admit  the  existence  of 
exact  relations  between  size  and  the  period  of  growth  on 
the  one  side,  and  longevity  on  the  other,  in  the  mode 
which  Buffon  and  Flourens  have  followed,  it  is  none  the 
less  true  that  there  is  something  intrinsic  in  each  kind 
of  animal  which  sets  a  definite  limit  to  the  length  of  years 
it  can  attain.  The  purely  physiological  conditions  which 
determine  this  limit  leave  room  for  a  considerable  amount 
of  variation  in  longevity.  Duration  of  life  therefore,  is 
a  character  which  can  be  influenced  by  the  environment. 
Weismann  in  his  well-known  essay  on  the  duration  of 
life,  has  laid  stress  on  this  side  of  the  problem.  Longevity, 
according  to  him,  although  in  the  last  resort  depending 
on  the  physiological  properties  of  the  cells  of  which  the 
organism  is  composed,  can  be  adapted  to  the  conditions 
of  existence  and  influenced  by  natural  selection,  like  other 
characters  useful  for  the  existence  of  the  species. 

If  a  species  is  to  remain  in  existence,  its  members  must 
be  able  to  reproduce  and  the  progeny  must  be  able  to 
reach  adult  life  so  that  they  in  their  turn  may  reproduce. 
Now,  it  happens  that  there  are  some  animals  the  fecundity 


of  which  is  extremely  limited.  Most  birds  which  are 
adapted  to  aerial  life,  and  the  weight  of  which  is  therefore 
to  be  kept  down,  lay  very  few  eggs.  This  happens  in 
the  case  of  birds  of  prey,  such  as  eagles  and  vultures. 
These  birds  nest  only  once  a  year,  and  generally  rear  two 
or  frequently  only  a  single  nestling.  In  such  circum- 
stances the  duration  of  life  becomes  a  factor  in  the  preserva- 
tion of  the  species,  more  important  since  eggs  and  chicks 
are  subject  to  many  dangers.  Eggs  are  devoured  by  many 
kinds  of  animals,  whilst  unseasonable  cold  may  kill  the 
chicks.  If  the  members  of  such  a  species  were  incapable  of 
living  long,  the  unfavourable  conditions  of  life  would  soon 
Jead  to  extinction.  Those  animals  which  reproduce  rapidly 
generally  have  a  relatively  brief  duration  of  life.  Mice,  rats, 
rabbits,  and  many  other  rodents  seldom  live  more  than  5  or 
10  years,  but  reproduce  with  enormous  rapidity.  It  is  almost 
possible  to  imagine  that  there  is  some  sort  of  intimate  link, 
possibly  physiological,  between  longevity  and  low  fertility. 
It  is  a  current  opinion  that  reproduction  wastes  the  maternal 
organism  and  that  mothers  of  many  children  grow  old 
prematurely  and  seldom  reach  an  advanced  age.  This 
would  seem  to  mean  that  fecundity  was  the  cause  of  the 
short  duration  of  life.  However,  we  must  guard  ourselves 
against  such  a  theory.  Longevity,  at  least  in  the  case  of 
vertebrate  animals,  differs  extremely  little  in  the  two  sexes, 
although  the  cost  of  the  new  generation  to  the  adult 
organism  is  very  much  greater  in  the  case  of  the  female 
than  of  the  male  parent.  None  the  less,  females  frequently 
reach  a  great  age,  especially  in  the  human  race  where 
women  reach  100  years,  or  live  beyond  that  time,  much 
more  often  than  men. 

Low  fertility,   however,   cannot   itself  be  regarded  as  a 
cause  of  longevity,  as  there  are  some  very  fertile  animals 


which  none  the  less  attain  great  ages.  There  are  parrots 
which  lay  two  or  three  times  a  year,  producing  six  to  nine 
eggs  in  each  clutch.  The  ducks  (Anatidae)  are  distinguished 
for  considerable  longevity  and  very  high  fertility,  each 
nest  containing  rarely  less  than  six  and  sometimes  as  many 
as  sixteen  eggs.  The  common  Sheldrake  lays  from  twenty 
to  thirty  eggs.  Tame  ducks,  in  some  parts  of  the  tropics, 
lay  an  egg  daily  throughout  the  season.  Wild  ducks  lay 
from  seven  to  fourteen  eggs  in  one  nest.  Ducks  and  geese, 
none  the  less,  frequently  attain  considerable  ages,  ducks 
having  been  known  to  live  for  29  years.  Even  the  common 
fowl,  which  is  a  notoriously  prolific  bird,  may  reach  an  age 
of  twenty  to  thirty  years. 

It  will  be  said,  however,  that  these  birds  are  exposed  to 
many  enemies  during  youth.  Chickens,  ducklings,  and 
goslings  are  ready  prey  for  hawks,  foxes  and  small  carni- 
vora.  The  longevity  is  possibly  to  be  explained  as  an 
adaptation  for  the  preservation  of  the  species  by  compen- 
sating for  the  great  destruction  of  the  young.  Weismann 
explains  in  this  way  the  longevity  of  many  aquatic  birds 
and  other  creatures  that  are  much  preyed  on.  It  must  be 
noted,  however,  that  the  longevity  cannot  depend  on  the 
risks  run  by  the  young  birds,  but  must  have  arisen  in- 
dependently. If  this  had  not  occurred,  creatures,  the  young 
of  which  are  destroyed  in  great  numbers,  would  have  ceased 
to  exist,  as  many  species  have  disappeared  in  geological 
time.  The  longevity  of  prolific  animals,  the  young  of 
which  are  destroyed  in  numbers,  must  be  due  to  some 
cause  which  is  neither  fertility  nor  the  destruction  of  their 
offspring.  This  cause  must  be  sought  in  the  physiological 
processes  of  the  organism  and  can  be  attributed  neither  to 
the  length  of  the  period  of  growth  nor  to  the  size  attained 
by  the  adults. 


After  having  discussed  various  theories  of  the  cause  of 
the  duration  of  life,  M.  Oustalet,1  in  a  most  interesting  essay 
on  the  longevity  of  vertebrates,  came  to  the  conclusion  that 
diet  was  the  chief  factor.  He  thinks  that  there  is  a 
"  definite  relation  between  diet  and  longevity.  For  the  most 
part  herbivorous  animals  live  longer  than  carnivorous 
forms,  probably  because  the  former  find  their  food  with 
ease  and  regularity,  whilst  the  latter  alternate  between 
semi-starvation  and  repletion."  There  are  certainly  many 
instances  which  give  support  to  the  view.  Elephants  and 
parrots,  for  instance,  are  vegetarian  and  reach  very  great 
ages.  On  the  other  hand,  there  exist  long-living  carni- 
vorous animals.  Many  observations  have  made  it  certain 
that  owls  and  eagles  reach  great  ages,  and  these  birds  live 
on  animal  food.  Ravens,  which  live  on  carrion,  are  also 
notorious  for  the  duration  of  their  lives.  There  is  no  exact 
knowledge  as  to  the  ages  reached  by  crocodiles,  but 
although  these  live  on  flesh,  it  is  certain  that  their  longevity 
is  great. 

We  must  seek  elsewhere  for  the  real  factors  that  control 
duration  of  life.  Before  stating  my  conclusion,  I  will 
review  what  is  known  as  to  the  duration  of  life  of  different 

1  La  Nature,  May  12,  1900,  p.  378. 



Longevity  in  the  lower  animals — Instances  of  long  life  in 
sea-anemones  and  other  invertebrates — Duration  of  life  of 
insects — Duration  of  life  of  "  cold-blooded  "  vertebrates — 
Duration  of  life  of  birds — Duration  of  life  of  mammals — 
Inequality  of  the  duration  of  life  in  males  and  females — 
Relations  between  longevity  and  fertility  of  the  organism 

IT  is  wonderful  to  what  an  extent  the  duration  of  life  varies 
amongst  animals,  the  slightest  examination  of  the  facts 
showing  that  very  many  factors  must  be  involved. 

As  the  higher  animals  are  nearly  always  larger  than 
invertebrates,  if  there  be  a  definite  relation  between  long- 
evity and  size,  one  would  expect  to  find  that  vertebrates 
live  longer  than  invertebrates.  However,  this  is  not  the 
case.  Amongst  animals  of  extremely  simple  organisation, 
there  are  some  which  reach  a  great  age.  A  striking 
example  of  this  is  found  in  sea-anemones.  These  animals 
have  a  very  simple  structure,  without  a  separate  digestive 
canal,  and  with  a  badly  developed,  diffused  nervous  system, 
and  yet  have  lived  very  long  in  captivity.  More  than  forty 
years  ago,  I  remember  having  seen  in  the  possession  of 
M.  Lloyd,  the  Director  of  the  Aquarium  at  Hamburg,  an 
anemone  that  he  had  kept  alive  for  several  dozen  years  'in 
a  glass  bowl.  Another  sea-anemone,  belonging  to  the 
species  Actinia  mesembryanthemum,  is  known  to  have 
lived  66  years.  It  was  captured  in  1828  by  Dalyell,  a 


Scottish  zoologist,  and  was  then  quite  adult,  and  probably 
about  7  years  old.  It  survived  its  owner  for  36  years,  and 
died  in  Edinburgh  in  1887,  the  cause  of  death  being  un- 
known. Although  they  are  thus  capable  of  living  so  long, 
the  rate  of  growth  of  members  of  this  species  is  rapid,  and 
their  fertility  is  very  high.  According  to  Dalyell,  these 
anemones  reach  the  adult  condition  in  15  months.  The 
specimen  in  his  possession,  in  the  20  years  from  1828  to 
1848  produced  334  larvae,  then  after  a  period  of  sterility  it 
gave  birth,  in  one  night  (1857)  to  23°  young  anemones. 
This  extraordinary  prolificness  decreased  with  age,  but  even 
when  it  was  58  years  old  it  used  to  produce  from  5  to  20  at 
a  time.  In  the  seven  years  from  1872  onwards,  it  gave  birth 
to  150  young  anemones.1  This  animal,  which  certainly 
was  not  more  than  the  fortieth  or  the  fiftieth  of  the  weight 
of  an  adult  rabbit,  lived  six  or  seven  times  as  long. 

Ashworth  and  Nelson  Annandale  have  published  their 
observations  on  another  sea-anemone,  of  the  species  Sagartia 
troglodytes,  which  was  50  years  old.  It  differed  from 
younger  examples  only  in  being  less  prolific. 

There  are  other  polyps,  such  as  Flabellum,  which  do  not 
live  more  than  24  years,  although  we  have  no  knowledge  as 
to  the  cause  of  the  different  duration  of  life. 

The  variation  in  the  length  of  the  life  of  molluscs  and 
insects  is  extremely  great.  Some  species  of  gasteropods 
(Vitrina,  Succinea)  live  only  a  very  few  years,  whilst 
others  (Natica  heros)  can  reach  thirty  years.  Some  of  the 
marine  bivalves,  as  for  instance,  Tridacna  gigas,  can  live 
to  sixty  or  a  hundred  years.2 

Insects  are  animals  as  variable  in  their  duration  of  life  as 
they  are  in  other  respects.  Some  live  only  a  few  weeks; 

1  Ashworth  and  Annandale,  Proceedings  of  the  R.  Society  of  Edinburgh, 
vol.  xxv.  part  iv.  1904. 

'l  Ilrcnn's  Klassen  u.  Ordnungen  des  Thierreichs,  vol.  iii.  p.  466. 


some  of  the  plant-lice,  for  instance,  die  in  a  month.  In 
the  same  order  of  Insects,  however,  (Hemiptera)  there  are 
species  of  cicada  which  live  thirteen  to  seventeen  years,  that 
is  to  say,  much  longer  than  such  little  Rodents  as  rats, 
mice,  and  guinea-pigs.  The  larva  of  an  American  species 
spends  seventeen  years  buried  in  the  ground  in  orchards, 
where  it  feeds  on  the  roots  of  apple  trees,  and  the  species  is 
known  as  Cicada  septemdecim,  because  of  this  duration  of 
life.  In  the  adult  stage  the  insect  lives  little  more  than  a 
month,  just  time  enough  to  lay  the  eggs,  and  bring  into 
the  world  the  new  generation,  which  in  its  turn  will  not 
appear  above  ground  until  after  another  period  of  seven- 
teen years. 

Between  these  extremes  of  long  and  short  life,  there  is 
to  be  found  amongst  insects  almost  every  gradation  of 
longevity.  Science,  in  its  present  state,  has  failed  to  find 
any  law  governing  these  facts.  Rules  which  hold  good  up 
to  a  certain  point  in  the  case  of  the  higher  animals  break 
down  in  their  application  to  insects.  The  large  grass- 
hoppers and  locusts,  for  instance,  live  a  much  shorter  time 
than  many  minute  beetles.  Queen  bees,  the  fertility  of 
which  is  very  great,  live  two  or  three  years  and  may  reach 
a  fifth  year,  whilst  worker  bees,  which  are  infertile,  die  in 
the  first  year  of  their  existence.  Female  ants,  although 
these  are  small  and  extremely  prolific,  reach  the  age  of 
seven  years.1 

We  know  so  little  about  the  physiological  processes  of 
insects,  that  we  cannot  as  yet  make  even  a  guess  at  the 
cause  of  this  great  variation  in  their  longevity.  It  is  more 
probable  that  we  shall  find  some  explanation  in  the  case  of 
vertebrates  concerning  which  we  know  much  more. 

Analysis  of  the  facts  shows  that  whilst  in  the  evolution 

1  Weismann,  The  Duration  of  Life,  in  "Essays  on  Heredity  »  (English 
translation),  Oxford,  1889. 



from  fish  to  mammal  there  has  been  a  great  increase  in 
complexity  of  organisation,  there  has  at  the  same  time  been 
a  reduction  in  the  duration  of  life.  As  a  general  rule,  it 
may  be  laid  down  that  the  lower  vertebrates  live  longer 
than  mammals. 

The  facts  about  the  longevity  of  fish  are  not  very  numer- 
ous, but  it  seems  clear  that  these  animals  reach  a  great 
age.  The  ancient  Romans,  who  used  to  keep  eels  in 
aquaria,  have  noted  that  these  fish  would  live  for  more  than 
sixty  years.  There  is  reason  to  believe  that  salmon  can 
live  for  a  century,  whilst  pike  live  much  longer.  There  is, 
for  instance,  the  much  quoted  instance  of  the  pike  stated 
by  Gessner  to  have  been  captured  in  1230  and  to  have  lived 
for  267  years  afterwards.  Carps  are  regarded  as  equally 
long  lived,  Buffon  setting  down  their  period  of  life  as  150 
years.  There  is  a  popular  idea  that  the  carp  in  the  lakes 
at  Fontainebleau  and  Chantilly  are  several  centuries  old, 
but  E.  Blanchard  throws  doubt  on  the  accuracy  of  this  esti- 
mate, inasmuch  as  during  revolutionary  times  most  of  the 
carp  were  eaten  when  the  palaces  were  overrun  by  the  popu- 
lace. There  is  no  doubt,  however,  that  the  life  of  carp 
may  be  very  long  indeed.  Not  very  much  is  known  about 
the  duration  of  life  in  batrachians,  but  it  is  certain  at  least 
that  some  small  frogs  may  live  twelve  or  sixteen  years,  and 
toads  as  many  as  thirty-six  years. 

More  is  known  about  the  life  of  reptiles.  Crocodiles  and 
caymans,  which  are  large  and  which  grow  very  slowly, 
attain  great  ages.  In  the  Paris  Museum  of  Natural  History 
there  are  crocodiles  which  have  been  kept  for  more  than 
forty  years  without  showing  signs  of  senescence.  Turtles, 
although  they  are  smaller  than  crocodiles,  live  still  longer. 
A  tortoise  has  lived  for  eighty  years  in  the  garden  of  the 
Governor  of  Cape  Town,  and  is  believed  to  have  reached 


the  age  of  two  hundred  years.  Another  tortoise,  a  native 
of  the  Galapagos  Islands,  is  known  to  be  175  years  old, 
whilst  a  specimen  in  the  London  Zoological  Gardens  is  150 
years  old.  A  land  tortoise  (Testudo  marginata)  has  been 
kept  in  Norfolk,  England,  for  a  century.  I  am  informed 
that  in  the  Archbishop's  palace  at  Canterbury,  there  is  to 
be  seen  the  carapace  of  a  tortoise  which  was  brought  to  the 
Palace  in  1623  and  which  lived  there  for  107  years.1  Another 
tortoise,  brought  to  Fulham  by  Archbishop  Laud,  lived  in 
the  Palace  for  128  years.  I  have  already  referred  to  a 
specimen  of  Testudo  mauritanica,  the  history  of  which  is 
known  for  86  years,  but  which  is  probably  much  older. 

Very  little  is  known  as  to  the  longevity  of  lizards  and 
serpents,  but  it  may  be  inferred  from  what  I  have  said  about 
other  reptiles  that  reptiles  as  a  class  are  able  to  reach  great 

It  is  an  easy  inference  that  the  great  duration  of  life  in 
cold-blooded  animals  is  associated  with  the  slowness  of 
the  physiological  processes  in  these  creatures.  The  circu- 
lation, for  instance,  is  so  slow,  that  the  heart  of  a  tortoise 
beats  only  20  to  25  times  in  a  minute.  Weismann  has 
suggested  that  one  of  the  factors  influencing  the  duration 
of  life  is  the  rapidity  or  slowness  of  the  vital  activities,  the 
times  taken  by  the  processes  of  absorption  and  nutrition. 

On  the  other  hand,  the  blood  is  hot  and  the  vital  activities 
are  rapid  in  birds,  and  yet  birds  may  attain  great  ages. 
Although  in  the  last  chapter  I  gave  a  number  of  examples, 
the  subject  is  so  important  that  I  propose  to  go  further  into 
details.  The  possibility  of  this  is  due  to  an  admirable  set 
of  details  brought  together  by  Mr.  J.  H.  Gurney.2  In  his 

1  Oustalet,  "La  Longtvitt  chez  les  Animaux  ver&fMs,"  La  Nature, 
May  12,  1900,  p.  378. 

2  "  On  the  Comparative  Ages  to  which  Birds  tive,"   The  Ibis,  Jan., 
1899,  vol.  v.  p.  19. 

E   2 


list,  in  which  are  included  more  than  fifty  species  of  birds, 
the  lowest  figures  are  from  eight  and  a  half  to  nine  years 
(Podargus  cuvieri,  Chelidon  urbica),  and  a  duration  of  life 
so  short  is  an  exception,  a  period  of  from  fifteen  to  twenty 
years  being  more  common.  Canaries  have  lived  in  cap- 
tivity from  17  to  20  years,  and  goldfinches  up  to  23  years. 
Field  larks  have  lived  for  24  years,  the  Lesser  Black-backed 
Gull  31  years  and  the  Herring  Gull  44  years.  Birds  of 
medium  size  may  live  for  several  dozens  of  years,  whether 
they  live  on  animal  or  on  vegetable  food,  whether  they  are 
prolific  or  lay  very  few  eggs.  I  will  quote  only  a  few 
instances.  Of  forty  parrots  the  minimum  and  maximum 
ages  were  respectively  15  and  81  years,  and  the  average  43 
years.  Without  accepting  the  truth  of  the  story  mentioned 
by  Humboldt  according  to  which  certain  parrots  survived 
an  extinct  race  of  Indians,  at  least  we  may  be  certain  that 
great  ages  have  sometimes  been  reached  by  these  birds. 
Levaillant  mentions  a  parrot  (Psittacus  erithaceus)  which 
lost  its  memory  at  the  age  of  60  years,  its  sight  at  90 
years,  and  which  died  aged  93  years.  Another  individual, 
probably  of  the  same  species,  is  reported  by  J.  Jennings 
to  have  reached  the  age  of  77.  Jones,  Layard,  and  Butler 
are  the  authorities  for  instances  of  Sulphur-crested  Cocka- 
toos having  reached  respectively  30,  72  and  81  years.  M. 
Abrahams  states  that  an  Amazon  (Chrysotis  amasonica) 
lived  1 02  years.  I  myself  have  observed  two  cases  of  great 
longevity  in  the  same  species  of  parrot.  One  of  these  birds 
died  at  the  age  of  82  years,  apparently  simply  from  old 
age,  whilst  the  other,  which  was  in  my  possession  for 
several  years  before  it  died  at  the  age  of  70  to  75  years,  was 
vigorous,  showing  no  signs  of  senility,  but  died  of  pneu- 

Mr.  Gurney  found  that  parrots  were  not  the  only  birds 


capable  of  reaching  a  great  age.  One  raven  reached  69 
years  and  another  50,  an  Eagle-owl  (Bubo  maximus)  68 
years,  another  53,  a  condor  52,  an  imperial  eagle  56,  a  com- 
mon heron  60,  a  wild  goose  80,  and  a  common  swan  70 
years.  None  of  these  examples  approaches  the  legendary 
three  centuries  attributed  to  the  swan,  but  it  is  evident  that 
many  different  kinds  of  birds  may  attain  great  age.  I  can 
add  some  cases  to  those  of  Mr.  Gurney.  In  the  Royal  Park 
at  Schonbrunn,  near  Vienna,  a  white-headed  vulture  (Neo- 
phron percnopterus)  died  aged  118  years,  a  golden  eagle 
(Aquila  chrysaetus)  aged  104,  and  another  aged  80  (accord- 
ing to  Oustalet).  Mr.  Pycraft  (Country  Life,  June  25th, 
1904)  reported  that  a  female  eagle,  captured  in  Norway  in 
1829,  had  been  brought  to  England  and  had  lived  for  75 
years.  In  the  last  thirty  years  of  its  life,  it  had  produced 
ninety  eggs.  The  same  writer  mentions  the  case  of  a  falcon 
having  lived  to  162  years. 

The  collection  of  facts  that  I  have  passed  in  review  make 
it  manifest  that  birds  may  have  a  great  duration  of  life, 
but  that  reptiles  surpass  them  in  this  respect.  Birds  cer- 
tainly do  not  reach  the  very  great  ages  of  crocodiles  and 

Longevity,  therefore,  is  reduced  as  we  ascend  in  the 
scale  of  vertebrate  life.  We  find  a  still  greater  reduction 
when  we  turn  from  birds  to  mammals.  Some  mammals, 
it  is  true,  may  live  as  long  as  birds.  Elephants  are  a 
good  instance.  It  used  to  be  thought  that  these  giant 
mammals  could  live  three  or  four  centuries,  but  I  can  find 
no  confirmation  of  the  legend,  which  seems  as  mythical 
as  that  relating  to  the  life  of  swans.  There  are  no  exact 
data  as  to  the  ages  reached  by  wild  elephants,  but  it  has 
been  stated  that  in  captivity  an  elephant  rarely  but  occa- 
sionally has  completed  its  century.  In  zoological  gardens 


and  in  good  menageries,  where  elephants  are  well  cared 
for,  they  seldom  live  more  than  20  to  25  years.  Chevrette, 
an  African  elephant  presented  to  the  Jardin  des  Plantes 
by  Mehemet  AH,  in  1825,  lived  for  only  30  years.  In  the 
official  list  of  the  Indian  Government,  which  gives  the 
fteaths  of  elephants,  it  appears  that  of  138  examples,  only 
one  lived  more  than  20  years  after  it  had  been  purchased 
(Brehm's  Mammals). 

Flourens,  using  his  own  formula,  assigned  the  age  of 
150  years  to  elephants  as  their  epiphyses  do  not  fuse  with 
the  long  bones  until  the  age  of  30.  So  far,  I  know7  of  no 
fact  to  support  the  conclusion,  although  it  seems  fairly  well 
established  that  occasionally  an  elephant  may  reach  a 
century.  It  is  stated  that  one  elephant  was  in  service 
throughout  the  whole  period  of  more  than  140  years  in 
which  Ceylon  was  occupied  by  the  Dutch.  This  elephant 
was  found  in  the  stables  in  1656.  Natives  with  special 
knowledge  of  elephants  set  down  their  duration  of  life 
as  from  80  to  150  years,  but  say  that  they  begin  to  grow 
old  at  from  50  to  60  years  of  age.  My  general  conclusion 
from  the  facts  is  that  the  life  of  these  very  large  mammals 
is  about  the  same  as  that  of  man  who  is  very  much 

Centenarians,  extremely  rare  amongst  elephants,  do  not 
appear  to  exist  in  any  other  kind  of  mammals  except  man. 
The  rhinoceros,  another  large  mammal  which  is  a  native 
of  the  same  countries  as  the  elephant,  does  not  reach  a 
great  age.  According  to  Oustalet  an  Indian  rhinoceros 
died  in  the  menagerie  of  the  Paris  Museum  at  about  the 
age  of  25  years,  and  showed  all  the  signs  of  senility. 
Another  Indian  rhinoceros  lived  for  37  years  in  the  London 
Zoological  Gardens.  Grindon  has  stated  his  opinion  that 
the  rhinoceros  may  live  for  70  or  80  years,  but  this  seems 


rather  an  inference  from  the  slowness  of  growth  than  a 
statement  of  observed  fact. 

Horses  and  cattle  are  large  animals,  hut  do  not  enjoy 
very  long  lives.  The  usual  duration  of  life  in  horses  is 
from  15  to  30  years.  They  begin  to  grow  old  about  10 
years,  and  in  very  rare  cases  may  reach  40  or  more.  A 
Welsh  pony  is  said  to  have  reached  the  age  of  sixty,  but 
such  a  case  is  excessively  rare.  Two  other  extreme  cases 
are  that  of  a  horse  belonging  to  the  Bishop  of  Metz  which 
died  at  the  age  of  50  years,  and  the  charger  of  Field- 
Marshal  Lacy  which  died  at  46. 

The  duration  of  life  of  cattle  is  still  shorter.  Domestic 
cattle  show  the  first  sign  of  age,  a  yellow  discoloration 
of  the  teeth,  when  five  years  old.  In  the  sixteenth  to 
eighteenth  year  the  teeth  fall  out,  or  break,  and  the  cow 
ceases  to  give  milk,  whilst  the  bull  has  lost  reproductive 
power.  According  to  Brehm,  cattle  live  for  25  to  30  years 
or  more.  Although  the  duration  of  life  is  short,  cattle 
are  not  prolific.  The  gestation  period  of  a  cow  approaches 
that  of  the  human  race  (242-287  days),  and  there  is  only 
one  birth  a  year.  The  total  period  of  reproductivity  lasts 
only  a  few  years. 

The  sheep,  another  domesticated  Ruminant,  has  a  life 
even  shorter.  According  to  Grindon,  sheep  do  not  live 
longer  than  12  years  as  a  rule,  but  may  reach  14  years, 
which  in  their  case  would  be  extreme  age,  as  they  generally 
lose  their  teeth  at  from  8  to  10  years. 

Some  Ruminants,  such  as  camels  and  deer,  apparently 
live  longer  than  sheep  or  cattle,  but  I  do  not  know  exact 
facts  about  them. 

The  short  life  of  domesticated  carnivorous  animals  is 
well  known.  Dogs  seldom  live  more  than  16  or  18  years, 
and  even  before  that,-  at  an  age  of  from  10  to  12,  they 


usually  show  plain  signs  of  senility.  Jonatt  has  mentioned 
as  an  extreme  rarity  a  dog  of  22  years  of  age,  and  Sir  E. 
Ray  Lankester  (Comparative  Longevity,  p.  60)  cites 
another  instance,  in  this  case  the  age  being  34  years.  The 
oldest  dog  that  I  have  been  able  to  procure  died  at  the 
age  of  22. 

It  is  generally  believed  that  cats  do  not  live  so  long  as 
dogs.  The  average  age  which  they  may  attain  is  usually 
thought  to  be  10  or  12  years,  but  certainly  a  cat  of  that 
age  has  not  the  decrepid  appearance  of  an  old  dog.  Thanks 
to  the  kindness  of  M.  Barrier,  the  Director  of  the  Ecole 
d'Alfort,  I  have  had  in  my  possession  a  cat  23  years  old. 
It  appeared  to  be  quite  vigorous,  and  died  from  cancer 
in  the  liver. 

Most  rodents,  particularly  the  domesticated  kinds,  are 
extremely  prolific  and  very  short  lived.  It  is  extremely 
rare  for  a  rabbit  to  reach  the  age  of  10  years,  whilst  7 
years  is  the  utmost  limit  for  a  guinea-pig.  Mice,  so  far 
as  I  can  ascertain,  do  not  live  more  than  5  or  6  years. 

It  is  plain  from  the  facts  that  I  have  brought  together, 
that  mammals,  whether  they  are  large  or  small,  as  a  rule, 
have  shorter  lives  than  birds.  It  is  probable,  therefore, 
that  there  is  something  in  the  structure  of  mammals  which 
has  brought  about  a  shortening  in  the  duration  of  their 

Whilst  most  of  the  lower  vertebrates,  and  all  birds, 
reproduce  by  laying  eggs,  the  vast  majority  of  mammals 
are  viviparous.  As  the  tax  on  the  parent  organism  is 
greater  when  the  young  are  produced  alive  than  when 
eggs  are  laid,  it  might  be  thought  that  in  this  difference 
lay  the  cause  of  the  shorter  life  of  mammals.  It  is  well 
known  that  an  animal  may  be  made  feeble  by  too  great 
fecundity,  and  it  is  conceivable  that  the  kind  of  parasitic 


life  of  the  embryos  within  the  body  of  the  mother  may 
weaken  her  system. 

There  are  many  facts,  however,  which  make  it  impos- 
sible to  accept  such  a  view.  The  longevity  of  mammals 
is  nearly  equal  in  the  two  sexes,  although  the  tax  on  the 
organism  caused  by  reproduction  is  much  greater  in  the 
case  of  females  than  in  males.  Longevity,  however, 
cannot  be  regarded  as  a  character  stable  in  each  species 
and  necessarily  identical  in  the  two  sexes.  The  animal 
kingdom  presents  many  cases  of  disparity  in  this  respect, 
the  difference  in  longevity  in  the  tw;o  sexes  being  specially 
striking  in  species  of  insects.  Generally,  the  females  live 
longer  than  the  males,  as,  for  instance,  amongst  the  Strep- 
si  ptera,  where  the  females  have  64  times  the  duration  of 
life  of  the  males.  On  the  other  hand,  amongst  butterflies, 
there  are  cases  (e.g.,  Aglia  tau)  where  the  males  live  longer 
than  the  females.  In  the  human  race,  there  is  a  difference 
in  the  longevity  of  the  sexes,  the  females  having  the 

As  in  most  cases  of  disparity  in  the  duration  of  life  the 
female  lives  longer  than  the  male,  it  is  plain  that  the  differ- 
ence cannot  be  assigned  to  the  drain  on  the  organism 
caused  by  reproduction,  which,  of  course,  is  much  greater 
in  females. 

Moreover,  a  closer  scrutiny  of  the  facts  shows  that 
although  mammals  do  not  live  so  long  as  birds,  the  repro- 
ductive drain  is  greater  in  the  case  of  birds. 

It  is  well  known  that  the  productivity  of  an  animal  is 
not  necessarily  identical  with  its  fecundity.  Fish  or  frogs 
which  lay  thousands  of  eggs  at  a  time  (a  pike,  for  example, 
produces  130,000)  are  obviously  more  prolific  than,  for 
instance,  a  sparrow  which  lays  only  18  eggs  in  a  year, 
or  than  a  rabbit,  which  in  the  same  time  gives  birth  to 


from  25  to  50.  However,  to  produce  this  much  smaller 
quantity  of  eggs  or  of  young,  the  sparrow  and  the  rabbit 
(I  have  chosen  the  most  prolific  bird  and  mammal)  expend 
a  much  larger  quantity  of  material  than  the  frog  or  the 
fish.  The  sparrow  and  the  rabbit  employ  in  producing 
their  progeny  a  bulk  of  material  greater  than  the  weight 
of  their  body,  whilst  the  enormous  quantity  of  eggs  laid 
by  the  frog  does  not  weigh  more  than  one-seventh  part  of 
the  body  of  the  frog.  It  may  be  laid  down,  as  a  general 
rule,  that  although  fecundity,  that  is  to  say  the  number 
of  eggs  or  of  young  which  are  produced,  diminishes  as 
the  organism  becomes  more  complex,  the  productivity  on 
the  other  hand  increases,  expressed  in  percentage  of  weight. 
The  productivity,  which  is  not  more  than  18  per  cent,  in 
batrachia,  reaches  50  per  cent,  in  reptiles,  74  per  cent, 
in  mammals,  and  82  per  cent,  in  birds. 

It  is  plain  that  if  reproduction  shortens  the  life  of 
mammals  by  weakening  the  organism,  it  must  be  the 
productivity,  not  the  fecundity,  which  is  the  important 
factor.  I  have  just  shown  that  productivity  is  greater  in 
birds  than  in  mammals,  and  in  consequence  it  cannot  be 
on  account  of  any  greater  burden  of  reproduction  that 
mammals  have  a  shorter  life  than  birds.  The  shortness 
of  mammalian  life,  again,  cannot  be  attributed  to  the  fact 
that  mammals  give  birth  to  young,  whilst  the  long-lived 
reptiles  and  birds  produce  eggs,  because  the  longevity  of 
the  males,  which  produce  neither  young  nor  eggs,  is  none 
the  less  practically  equal  to  that  of  the  females  of  the  same 
species.  The  reason  of  the  short  life  of  mammals  must 
be  sought  for  elsewhere. 



Relations  between  longevity  and  the  structure  of  the  digestive 
system — The  Caeca  in  birds — The  large  intestine  of  mammals 
— Function  of  the  large  intestine — The  intestinal  microbes 
and  their  agency  in  producing  auto-intoxication  and  auto- 
infection  in  the  organism — Passage  of  microbes  through  the 
intestinal  wall 

WE  have  seen  that  the  duration  of  life  in  mammals  is 
relatively  shorter  than  that  in  birds,  and  in  the  so-called 
"  cold-blooded  "  vertebrates.  No  indication  as  to  the  cause 
of  this  difference  can  be  found  in  the  structure  of  the  organs 
of  circulation,  respiration,  or  urinary  secretion,  or  in  the 
nervous  or  sexual  apparatus.  The  key  to  the  problem  is 
to  be  found  in  the  organs  of  digestion. 

In  reviewing  the  anatomical  structure  of  the  digestive 
apparatus  in  the  vertebrate  series,  one  soon  comes  to  the 
striking  fact  that  mammals  are  the  only  group  in  which  the 
large  intestine  is  much  developed.  In  fish,  the  large  intes- 
tine is  the  least  important  part  of  the  digestive  tube,  being 
little  wider  in  calibre  than  the  small  intestine.  Amongst 
batrachia,  where  it  is  a  relatively  wide  sack,  it  has  begun 
to  assume  some  importance.  In  several  reptiles  it  is  still 
larger,  and  may  be  provided  with  a  lateral  out-growth, 
which  is  to  be  regarded  as  a  caecum.  In  birtis,  the  large 
intestine  still  remains  relatively  badly  developed;  it  is 


short  and  straight.  In  most  birds,  at  the  point  where  the 
large  intestine  passes  into  the  small  intestine,  there  is  a 
pair  of  caeca,  more  or  less  developed.  These  caeca  are 
absent  in  climbing  birds,  such  as  the  wood-pecker,  the 
oriole,  and  many  others.  They  are  reduced  to  a  pair  of 
tiny  out-growths  in  the  eagles,  sparrow-hawks,  and  other 
diurnal  birds  of  prey,  and  in  pigeons,  and  perching  birds. 
These  organs  are  larger  in  the  nocturnal  birds  of  prey,  in 
gallinaceous  birds,  and  in  ducks,  etc.1 

In  the  large  running  birds,  such  as  ostriches,  rheas,  and 
tinamous,  the  caeca  are  relatively  largest.  Thus,  for 
instance,  in  a  rhea  (Rhea  americana)  which  I  dissected,  the 
caeca  were  nearly  two-thirds  as  long  as  the  small  intestine. 
The  latter  was  1*65  m.  in  length,  whereas  one  of  the  caeca 
was  roi  m.,  and  the  other  0*95  m.  The  weight  of  the 
two  caeca  with  their  contents  was  more  than  10  per  cent, 
of  the  total  weight  of  the  bird. 

Notwithstanding  the  exceptions,  which  are  relatively 
rare,  the  large  intestine  is  badly  developed  in  the  case 
of  birds.  On  the  other  hand,  it  reaches  its  largest  size 
amongst  mammals.  In  these  animals,  "  only  the  posterior 
portion  of  the  latter,  or  rectum,  which  passes  into  the 
pelvic  cavity,  corresponds  to  the  large  intestine  of 
lower  Vertebrates;  the  remaining,  and  far  larger  part, 
must  be  looked  upon  as  a  neomorph,  and  is  called  the 
colon."  2 

Gegenbaur,3  another  well-known  authority  on  compara- 

1  J.  Maumus,  "  Les  caecums  des  oiseaux,"  Annales  des  sciences  naturel- 
les,  902.     See  also  P.  Chalmers  Mitchell,  "  On  the  Intestinal  Tract  of 
Birds,"  Trans.  Linnaan  Soc.  of  London,  vol.  viii.  part  7,  1901. 

2  Weidersheim,  Elements  of  the  Comparative  Anatomy  of  Vertebrates, 
translated  by  \V.  Newton  Parker,  p.  236,  1886. 

3  Elements  of  Comparative  Anatomy,  English  translation  by  F.  Jeffrey 
Bell,  B.A.,  London,  1878,  p.  562. 


tive  anatomy,  writes  as  follcv.s  on  this  subject:  —  "The 
hind-gut  is  longest  in  the  Maimv.-tra,  where  it  forms  the 
large  intestine,  and  is  distinguish  3  as  such,  from  the 
mid-gut,  or  small  intestine.  Owing  ro  its  greater  length, 
it  is  arranged  in  coils,  so  that  the  terminal  portion  only 
has  the  straight  course  taken  by  the  hind-gut  of  other 

The  two  series  of  facts  are  not  to  be  disputed.  On  the 
one  hand  mammals  are  shorter  lived  than  birds  and  lower 
vertebrates,  on  the  other  hand  the  large  intestine  is  much 
longer  in  them  than  in  any  other  vertebrates.  Is  there 
here  any  link  of  causality,  binding  the  two  Characters,  or 
is  it  a  mere  coincidence? 

To  answer  the  question  we  must  turn  to  the  function  of 
the  large  intestine  in  vertebrates.  In  the  lower  members 
of  the  group  (fish,  batrachia,  reptiles,  birds,  etc.),  the 
large  intestine  is  not  more  than  a  mere  reservoir  for  the 
waste  matter  in  the  food.  It  takes  no  share  in  digestion, 
as  that  is  the  function  of  the  stomach  and  the  small  intes- 
tine. Only  the  caecum  can  be  thought  to  have  some 
digestive  property.  In  reptiles,  the  lowest  vertebrates  in 
which  the  caecum  is  present,  it  is  so  little  differentiated 
from  the  large  intestine  itself,  that  it  is  difficult  to  assign 
to  it  any  specialised  function.  In  very  many  birds,  how- 
ever, the  caeca  are  well  separated  from  the  main  diges- 
tive tube.  The  food  material  passes  into  them  in  con- 
siderable quantities,  and  is  retained  there  sufficiently  long 
for  some  digestive  process  to  take  place.  M.  Maumus 
has  found,  in  the  caeca  of  birds,  secretions  which  can  dis- 
solve albumen  and  invert  sugar  cane,  but  he  has  been 
unable  to  make  out  that  the  caecal  juice  has  any  action 
upon  fatty  matter.  Such  digestive  power,  however,  is 
slight,  and  when  M.  Maumus  removed  the  caeca  in  fowls 


and  ducks,  no  evil  consequences  followed.  As  in  many 
birds  the  caeca  are  rudimentary  and  in  others  absent,  it 
may  be  inferred  that  these  organs  are  useless,  and  are 
in  process  of  degeneration  in  the  class.  The  caeca  can 
be  regarded  as  playing  an  important  part  in  the  organism 
only  in  the  case  of  large  running  birds,  where  they  are 
very  highly  developed,  but  we  have  not  precise  informa- 
tion as  to  their  digestive  function. 

The  variations  in  the  structure  in  the  large  intestine 
are  greater  in  mammals  than  in  birds.  In  some  mammals, 
the  large  intestine  is  a  simple  prolongation  of  the  small 
intestine,  similar  in  calibre  and  in  structure.  In  these  con- 
ditions it  may  fulfil  a  definite  digestive  function.  Th. 
Eimer1  has  determined  that  in  insectivorous  bats  the 
large  intestine  digests  insects  like  the  small  intestine. 
Such  cases,  however,  are  rare.  In  most  mammals  the 
large  intestine  is  sharply  separated  from  the  small  intes- 
tine by  a  valve,  and  opens  directly  into  the  caecum  which 
may  be  very  large.  In  the  horse,  the  caecum  is  an  enormous 
bag,  cylindrical  and  tapering,  generally  well  filled,  and 
holding  on  an  average  35  litres.  It  is  equally  large  in 
many  other  herbivorous  animals,  such  as  the  tapir,  the 
elephant,  and  most  rodents.  In  such  cases,  the  food 
remains  for  a  considerable  time  in  the  organ  and  without 
doubt  undergoes  some  digestive  changes.  In  many  other 
mammals,  particularly  carnivorous  forms,  the  caecum  may 
be  quite  absent,  whilst  in  some,  as  for  instance,  the  cat 
and  dog,  it  is  very  small ;  in  the  latter  cases  its  digestive 
function  must  be  non-existent  or  insignificant.2 

As  for  the  large  intestine  itself,  apart  from  the  special 

1  Virchov/s  Archiv,  1869,  vol.  xlviii.  p.  151. 

*  P.  Chalmers  Mitchell,  "  On  the  Intestinal  Tract  of  Mammals,"  Trans. 
Zool.  Soc.  of  London,  vol.  xvii.  part  5,  1905. 


•cases,  such  as  bats,  it  cannot  fulfil  any  notable  digestive 
function.  Th.  Eimer  was  unable  to  find  a  proof  of  any 
such  action  in  rats  and  mice,  and  the  very  many  investiga- 
tions that  have  been  made  in  the  case  of  man  seem  to 
have  established  the  absence  of  digestive  power  in  the 

Dr.  Stragesco,1  in  a  recent  investigation  carried  out 
under  the  direction  of  the  famous  Russian  physiologist 
Pawloff,  established  that,  in  normal  conditions,  digestion 
and  assimilation  of  food  are  confined  almost  exclusively  to 
the  small  intestine  in  mammals,  and  that  the  large  intes- 
tine plays  only  the  smallest  part.  It  is  only  in  certain 
diseases  of  the  digestive  tract,  in  which,  on  account  of 
increased  peristaltic  action,  the  contents  of  the  intestine 
with  the  digestive  juices  are  passed  quickly  from  the  small 
intestine  to  the  large  intestine,  that  some  digestive  work  is 
done  in  the  latter  organ. 

The  large  intestine  (excluding  the  caecum),  then,  cannot 
be  regarded  as  an  organ  of  digestion,  although  ab- 
sorption of  the  liquids  which  have  been  formed  in  the 
small  intestine,  may  take  place  within  its  walls.  It  is 
known  that  in  the  large  intestine  the  contents  of  the  gut 
give  up  their  water  and  assume  the  solid  form  of  faecal 
matter.  However,  whilst  the  mucous  membrane  of  the 
large  intestine  rapidly  absorbs  water,  it  has  not  a  similar 
action  on  other  substances. 

The  question  of  the  extent  to  which  the  large  intestine 
can  absorb  has  been  closely  investigated,  because  of  its 
practical  importance.  It  sometimes  happens  that  invalids 
cannot  take  food  by  the  mouth,  so  that  their  life  would  be 
in  danger  if  it  were  not  possible  to  supply  them  with  food 

1  Tra-vaux  de  la  Socittt  des  mddecins  russes  a  Saint- Pttersbourg. 
September-October,  1905,  p.  18  (in  Russian). 


otherwise.  Attempts  have  been  made  to  inject  nutritive 
substances  through  the  skin,  or,  and  this  is  a  more  usual 
procedure,  by  the  rectum.  By  such  means  the  organism 
can  be  kept  alive  for  a  certain  time,  but  the  absorbing 
power  of  the  large  intestine  is  extremely  small.  Accord- 
ing to  Czerny  and  Lautschenberger l  the  entire  colon  of 
the  human  being  can  absorb  no  more  than  6  grammes  of 
albumen  in  24  hours,  an  amount  which,  from  the  point  of 
view  of  nutrition,  is  very  small.  It  was  thought  that  the 
large  intestine  might  more  rapidly  absorb  albuminous 
material  which  had  been  previously  digested  and  trans- 
formed to  peptones,  but  the  experiments  of  Ewald  2  showed 
that  even  in  that  case  the  absorption  was  very  small. 
According  to  more  recent  experiments  of  Heile,3  carried 
out  upon  dogs  which  had  caecal  fistulas,  and  in  the  case 
of  a  man  who  had  an  artificial  aperture  in  the  colon,  the 
large  intestine  does  not  absorb  undigested  white  of  egg, 
and  absorbs  water,  cane  sugar,  and  glucose  only  very  im- 
perfectly. The  only  substances  which  are  rapidly  ab- 
sorbed through  the  wall  of  the  colon  are  the  alkaline  fluids 
from  faecal  matter.  It  is  possible,  however,  to  nourish 
invalids  by  rectal  injections  of  certain  nutritious  substances, 
the  most  important  of  which  is  milk.4 

The  large  intestine,  which  has  really  very  slight  diges- 
tive properties  and  cannot  absorb  any  considerable  bulk 
of  nutriment,  is  an  organ  which  secretes  mucus.  The 
latter  serves  to  moisten  the  solid  faecal  material,  so  aiding 
in  its  expulsion. 

We  must  conclude,  therefore,  that  the  large  intestine, 
the  organ  so  highly  developed  in  mammals,  is  an  apparatus 

1  Virchow's  Archiv,  1874,  vol.  lix,  p.  161. 

2  Zeitsckrift  f.  klinische.  Median,  1887,  vol.  xii. 

3  Mittheilungen  a.  d.   Grenzgebieten  d.   Medicin  u.  Chirurgie,   1905. 
vol.  xiv. 

4  Aldor,  Centralblatt f.  innere  Medicin,  1898,  p.  161. 


the  general  function  of  which  is  the  preparation  and  elimi- 
nation of  the  waste  products  of  digestion.  Why  should 
such  an  organ  be  so  much  more  developed  in  mammals 
than  in  the  other  vertebrates  ? 

In  answer  to  the  question,  I  have  formed  the  theory  that 
the  large  intestine  has  been  increased  in  mammals  to  make 
it  possible  for  these  animals  to  run  long  distances  without 
having  to  stand  still  for  defalcation.  The  organ,  then, 
would  simply  have  the  function  of  a  reservoir  of  waste 

Batrachia  and  reptiles  lead  a  very  idle  life,  and  can  move 
slowly,  sometimes  because  they  are  protected  by  poison 
(toads,  salamanders,  serpents),  sometimes  because  they 
have  a  very  hard  shell  (turtles),  sometimes  because  they 
are  extremely  powerful  (crocodiles).  Mammals,  on  the 
other  hand,  have  to  move  very  actively  to  catch  their  prey, 
or  to  escape  from  their  enemies.  Such  activity  has 
become  possible  because  of  the  high  development  of  the 
limbs,  and  because  the  capacity  of  the  large  intestine  makes 
possible  the  accumulation  of  waste  matter  for  a  consider- 
able time. 

In  order  to  void  the  contents  of  the  intestines,  mammals 
have  to  stand  still  and  assume  some  particular  position. 
Each  act  of  this  kind  is  a  definite  risk  in  the  struggle  for 
existence.  A  carnivorous  mammal  which,  in  the  process 
of  hunting  its  prey,  had  to  stop  from  time  to  time,  would 
be  inferior  to  one  which  could  pursue  its  course  without 
pausing.  So,  also,  a  herbivorous  mammal,  escaping  from 
an  enemy  by  flight,  would  have  the  better  chance  of  sur- 
viving the  less  it  was  necessary  for  it  to  stand  still. 

According  to  such  a  view,  the  extreme  development  of 
the  large  intestine  would  supply  a  real  want  in  the  struggle 
for  existence.  M.  Yves  Delage,1  the  well-known  biologist, 

1  Lanntebiologique,  7th  year,  1902.     Paris,  1903,  p.  590. 



is  unable  to  accept  this  hypothesis.  He  thinks  that  the 
rectal  enlargement  would  fulfil  the  purpose,  and  adds  that 
everyone  has  seen  herbivorous  animals  pass  their  excre- 
tions whilst  running.  The  rectum  of  mammals,  however, 
cannot  serve  as  a  reservoir  for  waste  matter,  because  as  soon 
as  such  matter  reaches  the  rectum  it  excites  the  need  of 
excretion.  The  waste  matter  accumulates  in  the  large  in- 
testine, from  which  it  passes  into  the  rectum  at  intervals. 
When  it  has  reached  that  region,  a  sensation  is  caused 
which  leads  to  defalcation. 

M.  Delage  is  not  quite  definite  when  he  speaks  of 
mammals  voiding  their  excretions  whilst  they  are  in 
motion.  A  horse,  harnessed  to  a  vehicle,  may  defaecate 
whilst  it  is  walking  or  even  running  slowly.  But  these 
animals  cannot  defaecate  when  in  rapid  motion,  and  com- 
petent observers  state  that  horses  never  do  so  whilst  racing. 
In  zoological  gardens,  where  animals  have  room  to  run 
about,  they  stand  still  before  emptying  the  rectum.  M. 
Ch.  Debreuil,  who  keeps  antelopes  in  a  very  large  park 
at  Melun,  has  noticed  that  the  excreta  are  always  to  be 
found  in  masses  and  not  scattered  about  as  if  they  had  been 
discharged  by  animals  in  motion.  Antelopes,  which  are 
animals  that  run  and  leap  extremely  actively,  have  to  come 
to  a  standstill  before  discharging  their  small  pellets  of 
deer-like  excreta. 

In  the  struggle  for  existence,  when  a  mammal  is  pursuing 
its  prey  or  escaping  its  enemy,  there  is  no  question  of  the 
leisurely  movement  of  a  horse  harnessed  to  an  omnibus  or 
cab,  but  the  greatest  possible  activity  is  necessary.  In 
such  circumstances  the  possession  of  an  organ  within  which 
the  excreta  could  accumulate  would  be  of  real  importance. 
My  theory  of  the  origin  of  the  mammalian  large  intestine 
is  intrinsically  probable. 

Although    the    capacity    of    the    large    intestine    may 


preserve  a  mammal  in  emergencies,   it  is  attended  with 
disadvantages  that  may  shorten  the  actual  duration  of  life. 

The  accumulation  of  waste  matter,  retained  in  the  large 
intestine  for  considerable  periods,  becomes  a  nidus  for 
microbes  which  produce  fermentations  and  putrefaction 
harmful  to  the  organism.  Although  our  knowledge  of 
the  subject  is  far  from  complete,  it  is  certain  that  the  in- 
testinal flora  contains  some  microbes  which  damage  health, 
either  by  multiplying  in  the  organism,  or  by  poisoning  it 
with  their  secretions.  Most  of  our  knowledge  on  this 
matter  has  come  from  the  study  of  human  patients. 

Persons  have  been  known  who  do  not  defalcate  except 
at  intervals  of  several  days,  and  who,  none  the  less,  do  not 
seem  to  suffer  in  health.  But  the  opposite  result  is  more 
common.  The  retention  of  faecal  matter  for  several  days 
very  often  brings  harmful  consequences.  Organisms 
which  are  in  a  feeble  state  from  some  other  cause  are  speci- 
ally susceptible  to  damage  of  the  kind  referred  to.  Infants 
are  frequently  seriously  ill  as  the  result  of  constipati9n. 
Dr.  du  Pasquier1  describes  such  cases  in  the  following 
words  : — "  The  infant  is  leaden  in  hue, 'with  sunken  eyes, 
dilated  pupils,  and  pinched  nostrils.  The  temperature  may 
reach  nearly  104°  Fahr. ;  the  pulse  is  rapid,  feeble,  and  often 
irregular.  Restlessness,  insomnia,  sometimes  convulsions, 
stiffness  of  the  neck  and  strabism  show  that  the  nervous 
system  is  being  poisoned  by  toxins,  and  even  collapse  may 
be  reached.  The  foul  and  dry  tongue,  the  vomiting  and 
fetid  discharges  show  the  disturbance  of  the  digestive  tract. 
Very  often  an  eruption  appears,  as  described  by  Hutinel, 
chiefly  on  the  back  and  buttocks,  the  front  of  the  thighs  and  " 
fore-arms."  The  illness  may  lead  to  death  but  is  generally 
cured  by  simple  purging. 

1  Gazette  des  Hopitaux,  1904,  p.  715. 

F  2 


Women  in  pregnancy  and  childbirth  frequently  suffer 
much  as  the  result  of  retention  of  faecal  matter,  and 
physicians  are  familiar  with  the  symptoms,  which  have 
been  described  as  follows  by  M.  Bouchet1: — "After 
normal  parturition,  in  the  course  of  which  the  usual  anti- 
septic precautions  have  been  fully  pursued,  and  where 
delivery  has  been  complete  and  natural,  occasionally  the 
patient  is  seized  with  chill  and  headache.  The  breath  is 
fetid  and  the  tongue  foul.  The  temperature,  taken  in  the 
axilla,  is  nearly  101°  Fahr.  The  abdomen  is  inflated  and 
painful  in  the  umbilical  region.  Palpation  in  the  iliac 
fossae  reveals  lumps  or  consolidations  along  the  colon. 
Thirst  is  intense,  and  there  is  complete  anorexy.  On  ques- 
tioning, it  is  found  that  there  has  not  been  defalcation  for 
several  days.  The  treatment  consists  of  purgatives, 
enemas,  and  milk  diet.  In  the  next  few  days  the  bowels 
are  emptied  freely,  the  abdominal  pain  ceases,  the  tempera- 
ture becomes  lower,  appetite  is  restored,  and  the  patient 

Those  who  suffer  from  affections  of  the  heart,  liver,  or 
kidneys  are  specially  susceptible  to  the  evil  results  of  re- 
tained faecal  matter.  In  such  patients  an  error  of  diet  or 
constipation  may  bring  about  most  serious  consequences. 

Such  facts  are  well  known  to  physicians,  and  it  has  been 
established  that  complete  emptying  of  the  lower  bowels 
leads  at  once  to  favourable  symptoms.  From  the  other 
side,  it  has  been  shown  by  experiment  that  artificial  reten- 
tion of  the  faeces  by  ligature  of  the  rectum  puts  the  body 
in  a  grave  condition. 

If  we  collect  our  knowledge  of  all  the  facts,  we  cannot 
doubt  but  that  the  cause  of  the  evil  is  multiplication  of 

1  Accidents  dus  &  la  Constipation  pendant  la  Grossesse,  F Accouchement 
et  les  Suites  des  Conches.  Th£se,  Paris,  1902,  p.  32. 


microbes  in  the  contents  of  the  large  intestine.  When  the 
faecal  matter  is  free  from  microbes,  as  is  the  case  with  the 
meconium  of  the  foetus  or  new-born  infant,  it  is  not  a 
source  of  danger  to  the  organism.  The  waste  of  cells  and 
the  secretions  which  are  added  to  the  undigested  food 
cannot  do  any  harm.  Amongst  the  microbes  of  the  gut, 
there  are  some  that  are  inoffensive,  but  others  are  known  to 
have  pernicious  properties. 

The  ill-health  which  follows  retention  of  faecal  matter  is 
certainly  due  to  the  action  of  some  of  the  microbes  of  the 
gut.  There  are  difficulties,  however,  in  determining  the 
precise  mode  of  action  of  these  microbes.  It  is  generally 
believed  that  they  form  poisonous  substances  which  are 
absorbed  by  the  walls  of  the  intestine  and  so  pass  into  the 
system.  The  phrase  auto-intoxication  as  applied  to  in- 
fants, women  in  labour,  and  patients  affected  with  diseases 
of  the  heart,  liver,  or  kidneys,  is  based  on  this  interpreta- 
tion of  the  morbid  processes  involved.  Attempts  have  been 
made  to  isolate  and  study  the  poisons  in  question,  but  there 
are  many  difficulties  in  the  way.  To  distinguish  between  the 
actions  of  the  poisons  and  of  the  microbes  themselves,  the 
latter  have  been  destroyed  by  heat  or  by  antiseptics,  or  been 
removed  by  filtration.  Such  methods,  however,  may  alter 
the  poisons  and  so  are  inconclusive.  MM.  Charron  and 
Le  Play  l  have  tried  to  obtain  exact  results  by  heating  the 
intestinal  microbes  to  a  temperature  of  about  136°  Fahr.,  a 
process  which  probably  does  not  seriously  deteriorate  the 
microbial  poisons.  Such  material,  injected  into  the  veins 
of  rabbits  in  large  quantities,  rapidly  produced  death,  or  in 
smaller  quantities,  proportionate  ill-health. 

Kukula  2  has  tried  to  produce  this  toxic  action  in  animals, 

1  Comptes  rendus  de  PAcademie  des  Sciences,  Paris,  1905,  10  July, 
p.  136.  a  Archiv.f.  klinische  Chirurgie,  1901,  vol.  Ixiii,  p.  773. 


employing  microbial  secretions  obtained  from  cases  of  in- 
testinal obstruction.  He  succeeded  in  producing  serious 
symptoms,  such  as  vomiting  and  curvature  of  the  neck 
and  back,  in  fact,  precisely  the  sequence  of  events  familiar 
in  cases  of  obstruction  of  the  bowels  or  other  retentions  of 
faecal  matter. 

Some  of  the  products  of  the  intestinal  flora  are  un- 
doubtedly toxic,  such  as  the  benzol  derivatives  (phenol, 
etc.)  ammonium  and  other  salts.  Many  of  these  toxins 
have  been  insufficiently  studied,  but  it  is  well  known  that 
certain  of  them  can  be  absorbed  by  the  wall  of  the  gut  and 
act  as  poisons.  A  well  known  case  is  the  toxin  of  botulism 
which  was  isolated  and  studied  by  M.  van  Ermenghem.1 
The  poison,  the  product  of  a  microbe  which  causes  serious 
intestinal  disturbance,  is  so  fatal  that  a  single  drop  given 
to  a  rabbit  produces  death  after  symptoms  similar  to  those 
observed  in  cases  of  human  beings  poisoned  by  stale  food. 
Butyric  acid  and  the  products  of  albuminous  putrefaction 
are  amongst  the  most  pernicious  of  the  microbial  poisons 
produced  in  the  large  intestine.  It  is  familiar  that  digestive 
disturbance  is  frequently  associated  with  discharges  of 
sulphuretted  hydrogen  and  putrid  excreta,  and  there  is  no 
doubt  but  that  the  microbes  of  putrefaction  are  the  cause  of 
these  symptoms. 

It  has  been  assumed  for  long  that  the  retention  of  faecal 
matter  tends  to  putrefactive  changes  in  the  intestines,  and 
that  the  evil  consequences  of  constipation  are  due  to  this. 
Recently,  however,  bacteriologists  have  criticised  this 
accepted  view,  on  account  of  the  small  number  of  microbes 
found  in  the  excreta  of  constipated  persons.  Strasburger 
was  the  first  to  establish  the  fact,  and  his  associate,  Schmidt, 

1  Kolle  u.  Wassermann,  Handb.  d.  pathogenen  Mikro-organismen,  vol.  ii, 
1903,  p.  678. 


showed  that  putrefaction  did  not  follow  when  readily  putre- 
scible  substances  were  infected  with  material  taken  from 
cases  of  constipation.  However,  notwithstanding  the 
exactness  of  these  facts,  I  cannot  accept  the  inference  which 
has  been  drawn  from  them.  The  excreta  discharged 
naturally  in  cases  of  constipation  do  not  give  a  correct 
indication  of  the  conditions  inside  the  gut;  whilst  such 
matter  contains  few  microbes,  the  substance  removed  after 
injection  by  an  enema  is  extremely  rich  in  bacteria.  More- 
over, analysis  of  the  urine,  in  cases  of  constipation,  shows 
an  excess  of  the  sulpho-conjugate  ethers  which  are 
known  to  be  products  of  intestinal  putrefaction. 

Not  only  is  there  auto-intoxication  from  the  microbial 
poisons  absorbed  in  cases  of  constipation,  but  microbes 
themselves  may  pass  through  the  walls  of  the  intestine  and 
enter  the  blood.  In  the  maladies  that  are  the  result  of 
constipation  some  of  the  symptoms  recall  those  of  direct 
infection,  and  it  is  highly  probable  that,  if  special  investiga- 
tions were  made,  microbes  of  intestinal  origin  would  be 
found  in  the  blood  of  the  sick  children  and  the  pregnant 
or  parturient  women  whose  symptoms  I  have  described 

The  question  as  to  the  passage  of  microbes  through  the 
intestinal  walls  is  one  of  the  most  controversial  of  bacterio- 
logical problems,  and  there  is  little  agreement  in  the  numer- 
ous publications  regarding  it.  None  the  less,  it  is  far  from 
impossible  to  get  a  general  idea  of  what  goes  on  in  an 
intestinal  tract  richly  charged  with  microbes. 

Although  the  intestinal  wall  in  an  intact  state  offers  a 
substantial  obstacle  to  the  passage  of  bacteria,  it  is  incon- 
testable that  some  of  these  pass  through  it  into  the  organs 
and  the  blood.  Numerous  experiments  performed  on  dif- 
ferent kinds  of  animals  (horses,  dogs,  rabbits,  etc.)  show 


that  some  of  the  microbes  taken  with  food  traverse  the  wall 
of  the  alimentary  canal  and  come  to  occupy  the  adjacent 
lymphatic  glands,  the  lungs,  the  spleen  and  the  liver, 
whilst  they  are  occasionally  found  in  the  blood  and  lymph. 
Discussion  has  taken  place  as  to  whether  the  passage  takes 
place  when  the  wall  of  the  gut  is  absolutely  intact  or  only 
when  it  is  injured  to  however  small  an  extent.  It  would 
be  extremely  difficult  to  settle  the  question  definitely,  but 
it  is  easy  to  see  that  it  has  little  practical  bearing.  It  is 
known  that  the  wall  of  the  gut  is  damaged  extremely 
easily,  so  that  the  bluntest  sound  can  hardly  be  passed  into 
the  stomach  without  making  a  wound  through  which 
microbes  can  pass  into  the  tissues  and  blood.  In  the 
ordinary  course  of  life,  the  delicate  wall  of  the  gut  must 
often  undergo  slight  wounding,  and  the  frequent  presence 
of  microbes  in  the  mesenteric  ganglia  of  healthy  animals 
shows  clearly  what  takes  place.1 

It  is  indubitable,  therefore,  that  the  intestinal  microbes 
or  their  poisons  may  reach  the  system  generally  and  bring 
harm  to  it.  I  infer  from  the  facts  that  the  more  a  digestive 
tract  is  charged  with  microbes,  the  more  it  is  a  source  of 
harm  capable  of  shortening  life. 

As  the  large  intestine  not  only  is  the  part  of  the  digestive 
tube  most  richly  charged  with  microbes,  but  is  relatively 
more  capacious  in  mammals  than  in  any  other  vertebrates, 
it  is  a  just  inference  that  the  duration  of  life  of  mammals 
has  been  notably  shortened  as  the  result  of  chronic  poison- 
ing from  an  abundant  intestinal  flora. 

1  Ficker,  in  the  Archiv.  fur  Hygiene,  vol.   Hi,  p.   179,   has    recently 
published  the  results  of  an  investigation  into  this. 



Relations  between  longevity  and  the  intestinal  flora — Rumi- 
nants— The  Horse — Intestinal  flora  of  birds — Intestinal 
flora  of  cursorial  birds — Duration  of  life  in  cursorial  birds 
— Flying  mammals — Intestinal  flora  and  longevity  of  bats — 
Some  exceptions  to  the  rule — Resistance  of  the  lower  verte- 
brates to  certain  intestinal  microbes 

IN  the  actual  state  of  our  knowledge  it  is  impossible  to 
make  a  final  examination  of  my  hypothesis,  as  there  are 
many  factors  about  which  we  are  incompletely  informed. 
Nevertheless,  it  is  possible  to  confront  the  hypothesis  with 
a  large  number  of  accurately  established  facts. 

Although  the  life  of  most  mammals  is  relatively  short, 
there  are  to  be  found  in  the  group  some  which  live  rela- 
tively long,  as  well  as  others  whose  life  is  short.  The 
elephant  is  an  example  of  the  long-lived  mammals,  whilst 
ruminants  are  short-lived  forms.  In  the  last  chapter,  I 
stated  that  sheep  and  cattle  became  senile  at  an  early  age, 
and  did  not  live  long.  They  are  striking  exceptions  to  the 
rule  according  to  which  the  duration  of  life  is  in  direct  rela- 
tion with  the  size  and  length  of  the  period  of  growth.  The 
cow,  which  is  much  larger  than  a  woman,  and  the  time  of 
gestation  of  which  is  about  the  same,  or  a  little  longer, 
acquires  its  teeth  at  four  years  old,  and  becomes  senile  at  an 
early  age ;  it  is  quite  old  at  between  sixteen  and  seventeen, 


an  age  when  a  woman  is  hardly  adult ;  at  the  age  of  thirty, 
practically  the  extreme  limit  for  bovine  animals,  a  woman  is 
in  full  vigour. 

The  precocious  old  age  of  ruminants,  the  constitution  of 
which  is  well  understood,  and  which  are  carefully  tended, 
coincides  with  an  extraordinary  richness  of  the  intestinal 
flora.  Food  remains  for  a  long  time  in  the  complicated 
stomach  of  these  animals,  and  afterwards  the  digested 
masses  remain  still  longer  in  the  large  intestine.  Accord- 
ing to  Stohmann  and  Weiske,1  in  the  case  of  sheep  it  is  a 
week  until  the  remains  of  a  particular  meal  have  finally 
left  the  body  of  the  animal.  The  excreta  of  sheep,  normally 
solid,  do  not  betray  any  special  putrefaction  in  the  intes- 
tine, but  if  the  body  is  opened  there  is  abundant  evidence 
of  the  process.  The  intestinal  contents  are  richly  charged 
with  microbes  and  give  off  a  strong  odour  of  putrefaction. 
It  is  not  surprising  that  under  these  conditions,  the  life  of 
sheep  should  be  short. 

Another  large  herbivorous  animal,  the  horse,  also  dies 
young,  after  a  premature  old  age.  Although  it  does  not 
ruminate  and  possesses  a  simple  stomach,  the  process  of 
digestion  is  slow,  and  enormous  masses  of  nutritive  mate- 
rial accumulate  in  the  huge  large  intestine.  Ellenberger 
and  Hofmeister2  have  shown  that  food  remains  in  the 
alimentary  canal  for  nearly  four  days.  It  remains  in  the 
stomach  and  the  small  intestine  only  24  hours,  but  about 
three  times  as  long  in  the  large  intestine.  This  is  remark- 
ably different  from  what  happens  in  the  case  of  birds,  in 
which  there  is  no  stagnation  during  the  passage  of  food 
through  the  digestive  canal. 

1  Quoted  by  Frddericq  et  Nuel,  Elements  de  physiologic  humaine,  4th 
edition,  1899,  P-  25°- 

2  Quoted  by  Fre"dericq  et  Nuel,  op.  cit. 


The  structure  of  birds  is  adapted  for  flight,  the  body 
being  as  light  as  possible,  many  of  the  bones  and  the 
cavities  of  the  body  containing  air-sacs.  The  absence  of  a 
bladder  and  of  a  true  large  intestine  prevents  the  accumula- 
tion of  excreta,  these  being  ejected  almost  as  rapidly  as 
they  are  formed.  The  process  of  ejection,  which  takes 
place  often  in  birds,  is  not  so  inconvenient  as  in  mammals. 
The  hind  limbs  are  not  used  in  flight,  so  that  they  offer 
no  obstacle  to  evacuation.  Thus  birds  may  discharge  their 
droppings  while  flying. 

Such  structure  and  habits  make  it  not  surprising  that 
the  alimentary  canal  of  many  birds  contains  only  a  scanty 
intestinal  flora.  Parrots,  for  instance,  which  are  remark- 
ably long-lived  birds,  harbour  very  few  microbes  in  the 
intestine.  The  small  intestine  contains  almost  none,  the 
rectum  so  few  that  the  faecal  matter  appears  to  be  formed 
of  mucus,  the  waste  of  the  food,  and  only  a  very  few 
microbes.  M.  Michel  Cohendy,  who  has  examined  the  in- 
testinal flora  at  the  Pasteur  Institute,  was  unable  to  isolate 
more  than  five  different  species  of  microbes  living  in  the 
alimentary  canal  of  parrots. 

Even  in  birds  of  prey  which  feed  upon  putrid  flesh,  the 
number  of  microbes  in  the  intestine  is  remarkably  limited. 
I  have  investigated  the  case  of  ravens  which  I  fed  on  flesh 
which  was  putrid  and  swarming  with  microbes.  The  drop- 
pings contained  very  few  bacteria,  and  it  was  specially 
remarkable  that  the  intestines  had  not  the  slightest  smell  of 
putrefaction.  Although  the  opened  body  of  a  herbivorous 
mammal,  such  as  a  rabbit,  gives  off  a  strong  smell  of  putre- 
faction, the  body  of  a  raven  with  the  digestive  tube  exposed 
has  no  unpleasant  smell.  This  absence  of  putrefaction  in 
the  intestine  is  probably  the  reason  of  the  great  longevity 
of  such  birds  as  parrots,  ravens,  and  their  allies. 


It  might  be  said,  however,  that  the  long  duration  of  life 
in  birds  is  due  to  the  organisation  of  these  animals,  rather 
than  to  the  scantiness  of  their  intestinal  flora.  To  meet 
this  objection,  it  is  necessary  to  turn  to  the  case  of  cursorial 

There  are  some  birds  incapable  of  flight,  the  wings  of 
which  are  badly  developed,  but  which  have  strong  limbs, 
and  can  run  with  great  rapidity.  Ostriches,  cassowaries, 
rheas,  and  tinamous,  are  well  known  examples  of  cursorial 
birds.  They  live  on  the  surface  of  the  ground,  and  their 
habits  resemble  those  of  mammals.  When  they  are 
attacked  by  enemies,  they  escape  by  running  so  quickly 
that  some  of  them  (ostriches  and  rheas)  outstrip  even  a 
horse.  However,  like  mammals,  they  cannot  discharge 
their  secretions  when  they  are  running  quickly.  Tinamous 
(Rhynchotus  rufescens),  which  I  have  observed  in  captivity, 
however  quickly  they  may  be  running,  stop  abruptly  to 
discharge  their  excretions.  M.  Debreuil,  at  my  request, 
made  observations  on  this  matter,  and  assured  me  that  the 
tinamous  and  rheas  (Rhea  americana)  in  his  park  always 
stood  still  for  this  purpose.  He  has  noticed  that  the  drop- 
pings, however  abundant,  were  always  deposited  in  heaps. 
With  regard  to  ostriches,  M.  Riviere,  director  of  the  experi- 
mental Gardens  at  Hamma,  Algeria,  has  been  kind  enough 
to  give  me  the  following  information.  "  The  discharge  of 
excreta,"  he  said  in  a  letter  in  January,  1901,  "  is  less 
frequent  than  in  other  birds,  but  the  comparatively  small 
size  of  the  enclosures  here  makes  it  impossible  for  me  to 
assert  that  the  animal  could  discharge  its  droppings  if  it 
were  running  for  a  length  of  time ;  a  priori  I  should  think 
that  this  did  not  happen.  Normally  the  bird  stands  still 
for  defaecation,  the  tuft  of  feathers  on  the  tail  is  lifted  up, 
and  truere  is  a  violent  contraction  of  the  abdominal  muscles 


before  the  sphincters  of  the  cloaca  are  suddenly  opened  to 
discharge  the  excrement  with  violence." 

I  believe  that  the  remarkable  development  of  the  large 
intestine  in  these  running  birds  has  been  acquired  to  obviate 
the  danger  which  is  caused  by  the  animal  having  to  stop  for 
defalcation.  Although  the  huge  caeca  of  these  birds  have 
a  digestive  function,  particularly  on  plants  rich  in  cellulose, 
I  cannot  think  that  the  caeca  of  cursorial  birds  have  been 
developed  for  digestion.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  some  birds 
which  are  not  cursorial  live  on  the  same  kind  of  food 
(herbage,  seeds,  and  insects)  and  have  much  smaller 

FIG.  14.— Intestinal  microbes  from  the  caeca  of  a  Rhea. 

caeca,  the  caeca  indeed,  in  some,  for  instance,  the  pigeons, 
being  quite  rudimentary. 

It  is  not  surprising  that  the  accumulation  of  food  mate- 
rial in  the  large  intestine  of  running  birds  is  associated  with 
the  presence  of  an  extremely  rich  intestinal  flora.  Micro- 
scopic examination  of  the  excrement  of  such  birds  shows 
this  at  once.  Although  the  intestinal  contents  and  excre- 
ment of  many  other  birds  show  the  presence  of  very  few 
microbes,  belonging  to  a  small  number  of  species,  the  same 
materials  taken  from  running  birds  show  enormous  quan- 
tities of  microbes,  belonging  to  a  large  number  of  species. 
In  the  caecum  of  the  rhea  (Fig.  14)  there  are  bacterial 


threads,  spirilla,  bacilli,  vibrios,  and  many  kinds  of  cocci. 
In  the  tinamous,  the  intestinal  flora  is  if  possible  even 
richer.  According  to  the  statistical  investigations  of  M. 
Michel  Cohendy,  the  quantity  of  intestinal  microbes  in 
cursorial  birds  is  not  less  than  that  found  in  mammals,  even 
in  man. 

If  I  am  correct  in  the  view  that  I  have  been  explaining, 
cursorial  birds,  on  account  of  their  rich  intestinal  flora, 
ought  to  have  a  shorter  duration  of  life  than  that  of  flying 
birds.  I  will  now  turn  to  this  side  of  the  question.  Amongst 
cursorial  forms,  there  are  some  of  the  largest  living  birds, 
ostriches  being  actually  the  largest  living  birds,  whilst  an 
extinct  running  bird,  the  Aepyornis  of  Madagascar,  was 
the  largest  known  bird.  According  to  the  rule  that  large 
animals  live  longer  than  small  animals,  ostriches  should  be 
able  to  reach  a  great  age.  The  facts,  however,  are  against 
this.  M.  Riviere,  who  rears  ostriches  in  Algeria,  and  has 
a  great  experience  of  them,  writes  to  me  as  follows  :  "  I 
have  no  confidence  in  the  stories  about  the  longevity  of  the 
ostrich  which  were  told  me  in  the  Sahara ;  they  rest  on  no 
facts.  My  personal  observation  is  not  very  large,  but  it  is 
quite  exact.  Some  of  the  ostriches  which  have  been  hatched 
here  have  lived  for  26  years.  I  do  not  estimate  the  duration 
of  life  of  this  bird  at  more  than  35  years,  and  only  one  case 
of  this  age  have  I  seen  myself  in  20  years.  The  bird  was 
a  female,  a  good  layer  and  sitter;  she  died  of  old  age, 
showing  all  the  signs  of  decrepitude,  the  skin  excoriated 
and  lumpy,  the  feathers  degenerate  and  dry.  The  bird  laid 
eggs  until  nearly  the  end  of  her  life,  but  at  irregular  inter- 
vals, and  the  shells  were  granular  instead  of  being  smooth 
and  polished." 

In  a  farm  near  Nice,  where  ostriches  are  reared,  there  was 
recently  an  old  male  called  "  Kruger,"  which  was  supposed 


to  be  50  years  old.1  Countess  Stackelberg  has  been  good 
enough  to  try  to  get  information  for  me  about  this,  and 
informs  me  that  although  they  have  not  exact  knowledge 
at  the  farm,  they  believe  that  it  must  be  50  years  old. 
M.  Riviere  thinks  this  statement  very  surprising,  and  has 
nothing  in  his  own  long  experience  to  confirm  it. 

The  facts  which  I  have  been  able  to  get  together  do  not 
attribute  a  long  life  to  other  running  birds.  Gurney  men- 
tions that  a  cassowary  (Casuarius  westermanni)  lived  26 
years  in  the  Zoological  Gardens  of  Rotterdam,  and  that 
three  Australian  emus  (Dromacus  novae-hollandiae)  had 
lived  in  the  same  Gardens  for  28,  22,  and  20  years.  M. 
Oustalet  (Ornis,  1899,  vol.  x,  p.  62)  mentions  another 
emu  of  the  same  species  which  died  in  London  at  the  age  of 
over  23  years.  The  rhea  (Rhea  americana),  another  large 
running  bird,  does  not  live  so  long.  "  Boecking  thinks 
that  its  duration  of  life  should  be  set  down  at  from  14  to  15 
years.  According  to  him,  many  of  these  birds  die  of  old 
age  "  (Brehm,  Oiseaux,  vol.  ii,  p.  517). 

It  is  striking  to  compare  the  short  life  of  cursorial  birds, 
which  nevertheless  thrive  and  reproduce  in  captivity,  with 
the  remarkable  longevity  of  so  many  other  birds  (parrots, 
birds  of  prey)  which,  although  they  are  much  smaller, 
have  been  kept  alive  for  from  80  to  100  years.  It  would  be 
difficult  to  find  a  more  striking  argument  in  favour  of  the 
view  that  richness  of  the  intestinal  flora  shortens  life.  When 
birds  become  adapted  to  terrestrial  life  and  acquire  a  huge 
large  intestine  in  which  microbes  can  abound,  their  dura- 
tion of  life  is  diminished. 

Just  as  some  birds,  losing  the  aerial  mode  of  life,  have 
come  to  resemble  mammals,  so  also  some  mammals  have 

1  D  aviculture  (a  fortnightly  Russian  journal),  Oct.  1st,  1904,  No.  19, 
P-  3- 


become  flying  animals,  provided  with  wings  and  in  some 
respects  resembling  birds.  Bats  are  the  most  familiar  in- 
stance. The  large  intestine,  which  is  extremely  useful  to 
running  animals,  not  only  ceases  to  be  an  advantage  but  is 
harmful  to  flying  creatures,  insomuch  as  it  increases  the 
weight  of  the  body  uselessly.  Bats,  accordingly,  have  no 
caecum  whilst  the  large  intestine  is  changed  in  structure 
and  function.  Instead  of  being  a  capacious  tube,  serving 
as  a  reservoir  for  the  refuse  of  the  food,  the  large  intestine 
of  bats  has  the  same  diameter  as  the  small  intestine.  Its 
structure  is  nearly  identical.  It  is  provided  with  glands, 
and  as  I  have  already  mentioned  in  the  last  chapter,  it 
digests  the  food  in  the  same  way  as  the  small  intestine. 
In  fact,  the  large  intestine  has  become  simply  a  part  of  the 
small  intestine,  the  total  length  of  the  gut  being  reduced. 
Bats,  therefore,  can  no  longer  retain  their  secretions  but 
have  to  empty  the  intestine  almost  as  often  as  most  birds. 
I  find  that  Indian  fruit  bats  (Pteropus  medius)  discharge 
their  excreta  very  often.  Microscopic  examination  shows 
that  there  is  an  absence  of  microbes  quite  unusual  in  the 
case  of  a  mammal.  The  alimentary  canal  of  bats  is  nearly 
aseptic,  containing  only  a  few  single  bacteria.  I  have  fed 
these  fruit  bats  with  the  same  food  (carrots)  which  I  have 
given  to  rabbits,  guinea  pigs,  and  mice;  whilst  the  bats 
accomplished  the  process  of  digestion  in  i|  hours,  and 
deposited  excreta  containing  fragments  of  carrot,  the 
rodents  took  very  much  longer  for  digestion  and  large 
quantities  of  waste  matter  accumulated  in  the  caeca.  The 
intestinal  flora  too,  although  the  food  in  each  case  was  the 
same,  showed  remarkable  differences  in  these  animals.  It 
was  almost  absent  in  the  bats,  whilst  in  the  rabbits,  guinea- 
pigs  and  mice  it  consisted  of  a  mass  of  microbes  of  different 
species.  The  excrement  of  the  bats  had  no  unpleasant  odour, 
and  the  digestive  canal  of  these  bird-like  mammals  was  free 


from  putrefaction.  Fruit  bats  fed  upon  fruit  discharged 
excreta  with  a  pleasant  odour  of  apples  and  bananas.  We 
have  seen  that  birds  which  live  a  life  similar  to  that  of 
mammals  acquire  a  rich  intestinal  flora  and  do  not  live  so 
long  as  aerial  birds.  It  would  be  extremely  interesting  to 
ascertain  the  duration  of  life  of  bats,  mammals  which  live 
like  birds  and  have  a  very  scanty  intestinal  flora.  I  have 
been  unable  to  get  any  exact  information  as  to  the  duration 
of  life  of  the  true  bats,  that  is  to  say,  the  insectivorous 
bats,  as  all  the  requests  that  I  have  addressed  to  specialists 
have  proved  fruitless.  It  appears,  however,  that  it  is  a 
popular  belief  that  bats  live  long.  There  is  a  Flemish 
phrase  :  "  as  long-lived  as  a  bat,"  and  a  similar  phrase  is 
common  in  Little  Russia. 

As  for  the  fruit-eating  bats,  I  have  been  able  to  ascertain 
that  even  in  captivity,  where  the  conditions  are  unfavourable 
to  them,  the  duration  of  life  is  relatively  long.  I  have  had 
in  my  own  possession  a  fruit  bat  (Pteropus  medius)  which 
was  bought  in  Marseilles  14  years  ago.  It  showed  no  signs 
of  old  age,  and  the  teeth  were  in  perfect  condition.  It  died 
of  some  acute  disease  accidentally  contracted.  I  know  of 
another  bat  of  the  same  species  which  lived  in  captivity  for 
more  than  15  years,  and  I  have  been  informed  that1  in  the 
London  Zoological  Gardens,  a  fruit  bat  has  lived  for  17 
years.  If  these  bats  were  adult  when  caught,  it  would  be 
necessary  to  add  something  to  the  known  figures. 

Although  I  do  not  know  the  exact  duration  of  the  life  of 
bats,  it  is  clearly  relatively  long  for  mammals  no  bigger 
than  guinea-pigs.  The  difference  is  remarkable  if  we  com- 
pare it  with  the  life  of  sheep,  dogs  and  rabbits,  mammals 
very  much  larger  in  size,  but  possessed  of  a  rich  intestinal 

The  series  of  facts  that  I  have  been  discussing  strengthens 

3  Country  Life,  1905. 



my  conviction  that  the  intestinal  flora  is  an  extremely  im- 
portant factor  in  the  causation  of  senility.  It  must  not  be 
supposed,  however,  that  all  the  known  facts  can  be  ex- 
plained equally  easily  on  this  hypothesis.  The  harm  done 
by  microbes  cannot  always  be  measured  by  their  abundance 
in  the  alimentary  canal.  In  the  first  place,  it  must  be 
remembered  that  some  microbes  are  useful ;  moreover, 
microbes,  even  although  their  products  are  very  dangerous, 
may  exist  in  quantities  in  an  organism,  and  yet  do  no  harm 
if  the  organism  has  the  power  of  resisting  bacterial  poisons. 
Thus,  for  instance,  the  bacillus  of  tetanus,  which  thrives  in 
the  alimentary  canal,  and  which  can  endanger  life  if  the 
wall  of  the  gut  is  wounded,  does  not  harm  a  crocodile  or  a 
tortoise,  as  these  animals  are  extremely  resistant  to  the 
poison  of  tetanus.  Dr.  Favorsky,  by  experiments  at  the 
Pasteur  Institute,  has  shown  that  the  poison  of  botulism 
can  be  absorbed  with  impunity  by  some  birds,  and  by  tor- 
toises, although  death  follows  if  a  very  small  quantity  of  it 
be  introduced  into  the  alimentary  canal  of  a  mammal. 

The  bodies  of  man  and  of  higher  animals  are  possessed 
of  a  complex  mechanism  which  resists  the  harmful  action  of 
bacteria  and  their  poisons.  The  various  parts  of  this 
mechanism  may  act  differently,  with  the  result  that  there  is 
great  variation  in  the  power  of  resistance.  Thus,  however 
abundant  microbes  may  be  in  the  intestine,  they  may  bring 
little  harm  to  an  organism  that  has  a  high  power  of  destruc- 
tion or  neutralisation  of  the  toxins,  or  when  these  harmful 
products  are  unable  to  pass  through  the  intestinal  wall.  It 
is  in  this  way  that  I  explain  some  exceptions  to  the  general 
rule,  which  are  exceptions  only  in  appearance.  Such  a  case 
is  that  of  the  nocturnal  birds  of  prey.  Although  the  diurnal 
birds  of  prey  (eagles,  vultures,  etc.)  have  very  short  caeca, 
in  which  the  food  is  never  found,  owls  have  very  large 


caeca,  which  may  be  as  long  as  10  cm.  (Eagle-Owl,  Bubo 
maximus).  These  long  caeca,  however,  contain  debris  of 
the  food  only  in  the  enlarged  terminal  portion,  and  the 
food  masses  contain  a  very  small  number  of  microbes. 
Notwithstanding  a  great  difference  in  the  length  of  the  caeca 
between  the  owls  and  the  eagles,  these  two  groups  of  birds 
do  not  differ  greatly  in  longevity.  But  the  difference  in  the 
caeca  does  not  imply  a  corresponding  difference  in  the  intes- 
tinal flora  which  appears  to  be  very  scanty  in  both  cases. 

It  is  possible  that  the  elephant  is  a  more  real  exception  to 
the  rule.  Here  is  a  case  of  a  mammal  with  an  enormous 
large  intestine  and  a  capacious  caecum,  and  which  none  the 
less  is  capable  of  surviving  for  a  century.  I  have  had  no 
opportunity  of  investigating  the  elephant  from  this  point 
of  view,  and  have  no  explanation  to  suggest. 

Monkeys  and  man  differ  from  most  mammals  in  so  far  as 
they  possess  a  long  duration  of  life,  although  their  large 
intestines  are  very  capacious.  I  have  been  unable  to  get 
exact  information  as  to  the  longevity  of  monkeys,  but  I 
understand  that  these  animals  live  longer  than  domesticated 
mammals,  such  as  the  ox,  sheep,  dog,  and  cat.  Anthro- 
poid apes  are  supposed  to  be  able  to  reach  the  age  of  50 
years.  The  only  other  mammal  with  a  longevity  similar 
to  that  of  the  elephant  is  man. 

G  2 


Longevity  of  man — Theory  of  Ebstein  on  the  normal  duration 
of  human  life — Instances  of  human  longevity — Circumstances 
which  may  explain  the  long  duration  of  human  life 

MAN  has  inherited  from  his  mammalian  ancestors  his 
organisation  and  qualities.  His  life  is  notably  shorter 
than  that  of  many  reptiles,  but  longer  than  that  of  many 
birds  and  most  other  mammals.  None  the  less  he  has  in- 
herited a  capacious  large  intestine  in  which  a  most  abun- 
dant intestinal  flora  flourishes. 

Gestation  and  the  period  of  growth  are  long  in  the  human 
race,  and  from  the  point  of  view  of  theoretical  considera- 
tions, human  longevity  should  be  longer  than  it  generally 
is.  Haller,  a  distinguished  Swiss  physiologist  of  the  i8th 
century,  thought  that  man  ought  to  live  to  200  years ; 
Buffon  was  of  the  opinion  that  when  a  man  did  not  die 
from  some  accident  or  disease  he  would  reach  90  or  100 

According  to  Flourens,  man  takes  20  years  to  grow  and 
ought  to  live  5  times  20,  that  is  to  say,  100  years. 

The  actual  longevity  is  much  below  these  figures,  which 
arc  based  on  theory.  I  have  shown,  moreover,  that  even 
if  the  rule  based  on  the  theory  of  growth  can  be  accepted 
as  generally  true,  it  cannot  be  applied  in  every  case,  as  the 
factors  controlling  duration  of  life  are  very  variable. 


Statistics  show  that  the  highest  human  mortality  occurs 
in  the  earliest  years  of  life.  In  the  first  year  after  birth 
alone,  one  quarter  of  the  children  die.  After  this  period 
of  maximum  mortality,  the  death-rate  slowly  falls  until 
the  age  of  puberty,  and  then  rises  again  slowly  and  con- 
tinuously. It  reaches  a  second  maximum  between  the  ages 
of  60  and  75,  and  then  slowly  falls  again  to  the  extreme 
limit  of  longevity. 

Bodio,1  an  Italian  man  of  science,  holds  the  view  that 
the  great  mortality  of  infants  is  a  natural  adaptation  to 
prevent  too  great  an  increase  of  the  human  race.  This 
view,  however,  cannot  be  supported,  and  rational  hygiene 
readily  brings  about  a  great  diminution  in  the  mortality  of 
children.  The  cause  of  mortality  is  in  most  cases  maladies 
of  the  intestinal  canal,  produced  by  erroneous  diet,  and 
with  the  advance  of  civilisation,  infant  mortality  has  been 
very  greatly  reduced. 

I  find  it  impossible  to  accept  the  view  that  the  high 
mortality  between  the  ages  of  70  and  75  indicates  a  natural 
limit  of  human  life.  As  a  result  of  investigations  into 
mortality  in  most  of  the  European  countries,  Lexis  came 
to  the  conclusion  that  the  normal  duration  of  human  life 
was  not  more  than  75  years.  Dr.  Ebsteinc  accepts  this 
statistical  result  and  announces  that  "  we  now  know  the 
normal  limit  set  by  nature  to  the  life  of  mankind.  This 
limit  is  at  the  age  of  maximum  mortality.  If  man  dies  be- 
fore then,  his  death  iz  premature.  Everyone  does  not 
reach  the  normal  limit;  life  ends  generally  before  it,  and 
only  in  rare  cases  after  it." 

The  fact  that  many  men  of  from  70  to  75  years  old  a*re 
well  preserved,  both  physically  and  intellectually,  makes 

1  Quoted  by  Ebstein,  Die  Kunst  d.  mensch.  Leben  zu  verlcingern,  1891. 

2  Op.  tit.,  p.  12. 


it  impossible  to  regard  that  age  as  the  natural  limit  of 
human  life.  Philosophers  such  as  Plato,  poets  such  as 
Goethe  and  Victor  Hugo,  artists  such  as  Michael  Angelo, 
Titian  and  Franz  Hals,  produced  some  of  their  most 
important  works  when  they  had  passed  what  Lexis*  and 
Ebstein  regard  as  the  limit  of  life.  Moreover,  deaths  of 
people  at  that  age  are  rarely  due  to  senile  debility.  In 
Paris,  for  instance,  in  1902,  of  cases  of  deaths  between  the 
ages  of  70  and  74,  only  8*5  per  cent,  were  due  to  old  age.1 
Infectious  diseases,  such  as  pneumonia,  tuberculosis,  dis- 
eases of  the  heart  and  the  kidneys,  and  cerebral 
haemorrhage,  caused  most  of  the  deaths  of  these  old  people. 
Such  cases  of  death,  however,  can  often  be  avoided  and 
must  be  regarded  as  accidental  rather  than  natural. 

Confirmation  of  the  view  that  the  natural  limit  is  not  at 
70  to  75  years  is  to  be  found  in  the  fact  that  so  many  men 
reach  a  greater  age.  Centenarians  are  really  not  rare.  In 
France,  for  instance,  nearly  one  hundred  and  fifty  people 
die  every  year,  after  having  reached  the  age  of  looor  more. 
In  1836,  in  a  population  of  thirty-three  millions  and  a  half 
(33,540,910),  there  were  146  centenarians,  that  is  to  say,  one 
in  about  220,000  inhabitants.  In  some  other  countries, 
particularly  in  Eastern  Europe,  the  number  of  centenarians 
is  still  greater.  In  Greece,  for  instance,  there  is  a  centen- 
arian for  each  set  of  25,641  living  persons,  that  is  to  say, 
nine  times  as  many  as  in  France.2 

What  age  can  be  reached  by  the  human  species  ?  For- 
merly it  was  supposed  that  individuals  might  live  for 
several  centuries ;  to  say  nothing  of  Methuselah,  whose  age 
of  969  years,  mentioned  in  the  Bible,  is  the  result  of  a 
mistake  in  calculation,  I  may  mention  Nestor,  who,  accord- 

1  Annuaire  statistique  de  la  -ville  de  Paris,  23rd  year,  1904,  p.  164-171. 

2  Ornstein,  Virchow's  Archiv.,  1891,  vol.  cxxv,  p.  408. 


ing  to  Homer,  lived  for  three  human  ages,  that  is  to  say, 
300  years,  or  Dando,  the  Illyrian,  and  the  King  of  the 
Lacmons,  who  were  supposed  to  have  reached  ages  of  five 
or  six  centuries.  These  ancient  records  are,  of  course,  quite 
incorrect.  Much  more  confidence  can  be  placed  in  some 
facts  relating  to  more  modern  times,  according  to  which 
the  extreme  old  age  reached  by  man  was  185  years. 
Kentigern,  the  founder  of  the  Cathedral  of  Glasgow, 
known  by  the  name  of  St.  Mungo,  died  at  the  age  of  185, 
on  Jan.  5th,  6OO.1  Another  astonishing  case  of  longevity 
is  related  from  Hungary,  where  an  agriculturist,  Pierre 
Zortay,  born  in  1539,  died  in  1724.  The  Hungarian 
records  of  the  i8th  century  contain  other  cases  of  death  at 
ages  between  147  and  172  years. 

The  case  of  Drakenberg  is  still  more  authentic ;  he  was 
born  in  Norway  in  1626  and  died  in  1772,  at  the  age  of 
146.  He  was  known  as  the  Old  Man  of  the  North.  He 
had  been  captured  by  African  pirates  and  was  held  by 
them  for  fifteen  years,  and  was  engaged  as  a  sailor  for 
ninety-one  years.  His  romantic  history  attracted  contem- 
porary attention,  and  the  journals  of  the  time  (Gazette  de 
France,  1764,  Gazette  d'Utrecht,  1767,  etc.)2  contain  in- 
formation regarding  him.  The  well-known  instance  of 
Thomas  Parr  appears  to  rest  on  good  authority.  Parr  was 
a  poor  Shropshire  peasant,  who  did  hard  work  until  he  was 
130  years  old,  and  who  died  in  London  at  the  age  of  152 
years  and  9  months.  The  celebrated  Harvey  examined 
the  body  after  death  and  was  unable  to  discover  organic 
disease ;  even  the  cartilages  of  the  ribs  were  not  ossified  and 
were  elastic  as  in  a  young  man.  The  brain,  however,  ^-as 
hard  and  resisting  to  the  touch,  as  its  blood-vessels  were 

1  Ebstein,  op.  «'/.,  p.  70. 

2  Lejoncourt,  Galerie  des  centenaires^  Paris,  1842,  p.  96-98. 


thickened  and  dry.  Parr  was  buried  in  Westminster 

It  appears,  then,  that  human  beings  may  reach  the  age 
of  150,  but  such  cases  are  certainly  extremely  rare,  and 
are  not  known  from  the  records  of  the  last  two  centuries. 
I  cannot  accept  without  a  good  deal  of  reserve  the  state- 
ments as  to  two  persons  who  died  in  the  beginning  of 
the  igth  century  at  the  ages  of  142  and  145.  On  the  other 
hand,  cases  of  duration  of  life  from  100  to  120  years  are 
not  very  rare. 

Extreme  longevity  is  not  limited  to  the  white  races. 
According  to  Prichard,2  negroes  have  lived  respectively 
to  115,  160,  and  180  years.  In  the  course  of  the  igth 
century  there  have  been  observed,  in  Senegal,  eight  negroes 
ranging  from  100  to  121  years  old.  M.  Chemin 3  saw 
himself  in  1898  at  Foundiougne  an  old  man,  whom  the 
natives  stated  to  be  108  years  of  age;  although  he  was 
in  good  health,  he  had  been  blind  for  several  years.  The 
same  author,  on  the  authority  of  the  New  York  Herald 
of  June  I3th,  1895,  mentions  the  case  of  a  coloured  woman 
in  North  Carolina,  who  was  more  than  140  years  old,  and 
of  a  man  125  years  old. 

Women  more  frequently  become  centenarians  than 
men,  although  the  difference  is  not  very  great.  For  in- 
stance, in  Greece,  in  1885,  in  a  population  of  nearly  two 
millions  (1,947,760),  there  were  278  persons  aged  from 
95  to  1 10  years,  of  whom  133  were  male  and  145  female. 

1  Lejoncourt,  op.  tit.,  p.  101. 

2  Researches  into  the  Physical  History  of  Mankind,  1836,  vol.  i,  p.  1 157. 

3  I  owe  to  the  kindness  of  M.  Chemin  a  memoir  in  which   he  has 
brought  together  the  ancient  and  new  records  on  the  centenarians  of  all 
countries  up  to  the   end  of  the  nineteenth  century.     M.  Chemin   was 
unable  to  find  a  publisher,  but  has  given  me  his  manuscript,  extending  to 
182  pages. 


In  the  seven  years,  from  1833  to  1839  inclusive,  according 
to  Chemin,  there  were  in  Paris  twenty-six  men  over  the  age 
of  95,  and  forty-five  women.  Such  facts,  and  many  others, 
support  the  general  proposition  that  male  mortality  is 
always  greater  than  that  of  the  other  sex. 

In  most  cases  centenarians  are  notably  healthy  and  of 
strong  constitution.  There  are  instances,  however,  of 
abnormal  people  having  reached  a  great  age.  A  woman, 
called  Nicoline  Marc,  died  in  1760,  at  the  age  of  no. 
Since  she  was  two  years  old,  her  left  arm  was  crippled. 
Her  hand  was  bent  under  the  arm  like  a  hook.  She  was 
a  hunch-back,  and  so  bent  that  she  appeared  to  be  no 
more  than  four  feet  high.  A  Scotch  woman,  Elspeth 
Wilson,  died  at  the  age  of  115  years.  She  was  quite  a 
dwarf,  being  only  a  little  over  two  feet  high.  On  the  other 
hand,  although  they  usually  have  a  very  short  life,  giants 
have  been  known  to  reach  the  age  of  100. 

Haller,  in  the  eighteenth  century,  remarked  that  centen- 
arians often  occurred  in  the  same  family,  as  if  longevity 
were  a  hereditary  quality.  It  is  certainly  the  case  that  the 
descendants  of  centenarians  frequently  reach  extreme  age. 
Thomas  Parr,  for  instance,  left  a  son  who  died  in  1761, 
at  the  age  of  127  years,  having  retained  his  mental  facul- 
ties until  death.  In  M.  Chemin's  list  of  centenarians, 
there  are  eighteen  cases  of  extreme  old  age  having  been 
reached  by  their  relations.  As  all  innate  characters  can  be 
transmitted,  the  influence  of  heredity  and  longevity  must 
be  admitted.  At  the  same  time,  it  is  necessary  to  remem- 
ber the  important  influence  of  the  similarity  of  conditions 
in  the  case  of  parents  and  children.  Many  cases  of  tuber- 
culosis and  leprosy,  which  used  to  be  assigned  to  heredity, 
are  now  known  to  be  due  to  infection  in  the  same  condi- 
tions of  life,  and  some  of  the  examples  of  the  attaining 


of  a  great  age  by  more  than  one  member  of  a  family  may 
be  explained  by  the  influence  of  surrounding  circum- 
stances. Very  frequently  the  husband  and  wife,  although 
not  related  by  blood,  both  attain  extremely  advanced  age. 
I  found  22  cases  of  this  kind  in  M.  Chemin's  list;  I  will 
give  a  few  of  them.  A  widow,  Anne  Barak,  died  at  the 
age  of  123,  in  Moravia;  her  husband  died  at  the  age  of 
118.  In  1896,  there  was  alive  in  Constantinople,  M. 
Christaki,  a  retired  army  doctor  of  the  age  of  no;  his 
wife  was  95  years  old.  In  1886,  M.  et  Mme.  Gallot,  aged 
respectively  105  years  and  4  months,  and  105  years  and 
one  month,  died  within  two  days  of  each  other  at  Vaugirard, 
54,  Rue  Cambronne.  Lejoncourt  mentions  a  South 
American  of  143  years  old,  whose  wife  had  lived  to  the 
age  of  117. 

It  is  worth  enquiring  if  there  be  any  relation  between 
longevity  and  locality.  There  are  some  countries  in  which 
very  many  of  the  natives  reach  old  age.  It  appears  that 
Eastern  Europe  (Balkan  States,  and  Russia),  although 
its  civilisation  is  not  high,  contains  many  more  centen- 
arians than  Western  Europe.  I  have  already  mentioned 
that  Dr.  Ornstein  had  shown  the  existence  of  many  ex- 
tremely old  people  in  Greece.  M.  Chemin  states  that 
in  Servia,  Bulgaria  and  Roumania  there  w'ere  more  than 
5,000  centenarians  (5,545)  living  in  1896.  "  Although 
these  figures  appear  to  be  exaggerated,"  wrote  M.  Chemin, 
"it  is  undoubtedly  the  case  that  the  pure  and  keen  air  of 
the  Balkans,  and  the  pastoral  or  agricultural  life  of  the 
natives,  predisposes  to  old  age."  The  same  author  men- 
tions several  localities  in  France,  notable  for  the  numbers 
of  very  old  people.  In  1898  in  the  commune  of  Sournia 
(Pyrenees-Orientales)  the  total  population  was  600, 
amongst  which  there  was  one  woman  of  95  years,  a  man 
of  94,  a  woman  of  89,  two  men  of  85,  two  of  84,  and  two  of 


83,  three  women  of  82,  and  two  men  of  80.  At  St.  Blimont 
in  the  Department  of  the  Somme,  amongst  the  400  inhabi- 
tants alive  in  1897,  there  were  six  men  between  the  ages  of 
85  and  93  years  and  one  woman  in  her  loist  year. 

It  cannot  be  accepted  that  it  is  the  keen  air  which 
lengthens  the  life,  because  Switzerland,  a  mountainous 
country,  is  notable  for  the  rarity  of  centenarians.  It  is 
more  likely  that  some  circumstance  in  the  mode  of  living 
influences  longevity. 

It  has  been  noticed  that  most  centenarians  have  been 
people  who  were  poor,  or  in  humble  circumstances,  and 
whose  life  has  been  extremely  simple.  There  are  instances 
of  rich  centenarians,  such  as  Sir  Moses  Montefiore  who 
died  at  the  age  of  101,  but  such  are  extremely  rare.  It  may 
well  be  said  that  great  riches  do  not  bring  a  very  long  life. 
Poverty  generally  brings  with  it  sobriety,  especially  in 
old  age,  and  it  has  been  often  said  that  most  centenarians 
have  lived  an  extremely  sober  life.  They  have  not  all 
followed  the  example  of  the  celebrated  Cornaro,  who 
brought  himself  to  subsist  on  a  daily  diet  of  no  more 
than  twelve  ounces  of  solid  food,  and  fourteen  ounces  of 
wine,  and  who,  although  his  constitution  was  weak,  lived 
for  about  a  century.  He  has  left  extremely  interesting 
Memoirs,  and  retained  his  intelligence  until  his  death  on 
the  26th  April,  1566  (Lejoncourt,  p.  146). 

In  M.  Chemin's  list  I  have  counted  twenty-six  centen- 
arians, distinguished  by  their  frugal  life.  Most  of  them 
did  not  drink  wine,  and  many  of  them  limited  themselves 
to  bread,  milk  and  vegetables. 

Sobriety  is  certainly  favourable  to  long  life,  but  it  is' 
not  necessary,  because  quite  a  number  of  centenarians  have 
drunk  freely.  Several  of  those  who  are  catalogued  by 
Chemin,  drank  wine  and  spirits  even  to  excess.  Catherine 
Reymond,  for  instance,  who  died  in  1758  at  the  age  of  107 


years,  drank  much  wine,  and  Politiman,  a  surgeon  who 
lived  from  1685  to  1825,  was  in  the  habit,  from  his  twenty- 
fifth  year  onwards,  of  getting  drunk  every  night,  after 
having  attended  to  his  practice  all  day.  Gascogne,  a  butcher 
of  Trie  (Hautes-Pyrenees),  died  in  1767  at  the  age  of  120, 
and  had  been  accustomed  to  get  drunk  twice  a  week.  A 
most  curious  example  is  that  of  the  Irish  land-owner 
Brawn,  who  lived  to  the  age  of  120,  and  who  had  an  in- 
scription put  upon  his  tombstone  that  he  was  always 
drunk,  and  when  in  that  condition  was  so  terrible  that 
even  death  had  been  afraid  of  him.  Some  districts,  even, 
are  distinguished  at  once  for  the  longevity  of  their  in- 
habitants and  for  the  large  local  consumption  of  alcohol. 
In  1897,  tne  village  of  Chailly  in  the  Cote-d'Or  had  no 
less  than  twenty  octogenarians  amongst  523  inhabitants. 
This  village  is  one  of  the  localities  in  France  where  most 
alcohol  is  consumed,  and  the  old  people  are  very  far  from 
being  distinguished  from  their  younger  fellows  by  any 
special  sobriety. 

In  some  cases  centenarians  have  been  much  addicted  to 
the  drinking  of  coffee.  The  reader  will  recall  Voltaire's 
reply  when  his  doctor  described  the  grave  harm  that 
comes  from  abuse  of  coffee  which  acts  as  a  real  poison. 
"  Well,"  said  Voltaire,  "  I  have  been  poisoning  myself  for 
nearly  80  years."  There  are  centenarians  who  have  lived 
longer  than  Voltaire,  and  have  drunk  still  more  coffee. 
Elisabeth  Durieux,  a  native  of  Savoy,  reached  the  age  of 
114.  Her  principal  food  was  coffee,  of  which  she  took  daily 
as  many  as  forty  small  cups.  She  w^as  jovial  and  a  boon 
table  companion,  and  used  black  coffee  in  quantities  that 
would  have  surprised  an  Arab.  Her  coffee-pot  was  always 
on  the  fire,  like  the  tea-pot  in  an  English  cottage  (Lejon- 
court,  p.  84;  Chemin,  p.  147). 

It  has  been  noticed  that  many  centenarians  do  not  smoke, 


but  this  like  all  other  traits  is  not  universal.  M.  Ross, 
who  gained  a  prize  for  longevity  in  1896  at  the  age  of  102, 
was  an  inveterate  smoker.  In  1897,  a  widow  named 
Lazennec,  died  at  La  Carriere,  in  Kerinou,  Finistere,  at 
the  age  of  104.  She  lived  in  a  hovel  on  charity,  and  she 
had  smoked  a  pipe  ever  since  she  was  quite  young. 

It  is  plain  that  any  factor  to  which  long  duration  of  life 
has  been  attributed  disappears  when  many  cases  are 
examined.  Naturally  a  sound  constitution  and  a  simple 
and  sober  life  are  favourable  to  longevity,  but  apart  from 
these,  there  is  something  unknown  which  tends  to  long 
life.  The  celebrated  physiologist  of  Bonn,  Pfliiger,1  came 
to  the  conclusion  that  the  chief  condition  of  longevity  is 
something  "  intrinsic  in  the  constitution,"  something  which 
cannot  be  defined  exactly,  and  which  must  be  set  down  to 

In  the  present  state  of  knowledge,  we  cannot  denote  the 
chief  cause  of  human  longevity,  but  the  proper  course 
will  be  to  seek  it  out  as  we  would  seek  out  that  of  animal 
longevity.  As  human  longevity  is  often  local  in  its  charac- 
ter, and  is  exhibited  by  married  people  who  have  nothing  in 
common  except  their  mode  of  life,  we  may  enquire  into  the 
intestinal  flora  and  the  mechanism  by  which  the  organism 
resists  its  harmful  effect  as  factors  which  influence  the 
duration  of  life.  It  is  reasonable  to  suppose  that  in  persons 
living  in  the  same  district  or  under  the  same  roof,  the  in- 
testinal flora  may  be  similar.  The  problem  can  be  settled 
only  by  a  series  of  laborious  researches  which  have  yet  to 
be  made.  At  present  I  can  do  no  more  than  bring  together 
a  large  number  of  facts  regarding  the  duration  of  life  in 
man  and  in  animals,  with  the  hope  of  suggesting  the  lines 
for  future  investigation. 

1  Ueber  die  Kunst  d.  Verlangerung  d.  mensch.  Lebens,  Bonn,  1890,  p.  23. 




Theory  of  the  immortality  of  unicellular  organisms — Exam- 
ples of  very  old  trees — Examples  of  short-lived  plants — Pro- 
longation of  the  life  of  some  plants — Theory  of  the  natural 
death  of  plants  by  exhaustion — Death  of  plants  from  auto- 

IT  must  surprise  my  readers  to  find  how  little  science  really 
knows  about  death.  Although  death  has  a  preponderating 
place  in  religions,  systems  of  philosophy,  literature  and 
folk-lore,  scientific  works  pay  little  attention  to  it.  This 
unfortunate  fact  explains,  although  it  may  not  justify,  the 
bitter  attack  made  on  science  on  the  grounds  that  it  is 
occupied  with  minutiae  and  neglects  the  great  problems  of 
human  life,  such  as  death.  When  Tolstoi  was  absorbed  by 
the  problem  and  searched  for  some  solution  in  the  writings 
of  scientific  men,  he  found  that  the  explanations  were  trivial 
or  inexact.  In  consequence  he  was  extremely  indignant 
with  the  men  who  devoted  themselves  to  the  investigation 
of  what  seemed  to  him  useless  problems  (such  as  the  insect 
world,  or  the  structure  of  cells  and  tissues)  and  who  were 
yet  unable  to  say  what  the  destiny  of  man  or  death  might  be. 
I  am  far  from  claiming  to  solve  these  problems ;  I  can  do 
little  more  than  describe  the  actual  state  of  the  question  of 
natural  death.  I  hope  in  this  way  at  least  to  prepare  for 


scientific  investigation,  and  to  call  attention  to  it  as  the  most 
important  problem  of  humanity. 

By  the  use  of  the  phrase  "  natural  death  "  I  mean  to 
denote  a  phenomenon  that  is  intrinsic  in  the  nature  of  an 
organism  and  that  is  not  the  mere  result  of  an  external  acci- 
dent. Popular  phraseology  includes  under  natural  death 
all  cases  due  to  diseases.  But  as  such  deaths  can  be  avoided 
and  are  not  due  to  qualities  inherent  in  the  organism,  it  is 
erroneous  to  include  them  in  the  category  "  natural  death." 

In  nature,  death  comes  so  frequently  by  accident  that 
there  is  justification  for  asking  if  natural  death  really  oc- 
curs. It  used  to  be  thought  that  death  was  the  inevitable 
end  of  life  and  that  the  living  principle  contained  within 
itself  the  germ  of  death.  Accordingly,  it  was  a  surprising 
discovery  that  many  low  organisms  die  only  by  accident, 
and  that  if  such  accident  be  avoided,  death  does  not  fall  on 
them.  Unicellular  organsims  (such  as  infusoria,  many 
other  protozoa  and  low  plants)  multiply  by  simple  division, 
the  organism  thus  giving  rise  to  two  new  organisms ;  the 
parent  so  to  speak  loses  itself  in  its  offspring  without  under- 
going death.  To  criticisms  of  this  mode  of  presentment 
of  the  facts,  Weismann,  who  has  attracted  most  attention 
to  the  view,  replied  as  follows  : — "In  cultures  of  Infusoria, 
these  little  animals  continually  multiply  by  division  and  no 
dead  bodies  are  found*  The  individual  life  is  short,  but  it 
ends  not  in  death  but  in  transformation  to  two  new  indivi- 

Max  Verworn,1  a  physiologist  of  repute,  objected  that 
Weismann  had  overlooked  the  occurrence  within  the  organ- 
ism of  a  process  of  partial  destruction,  and  that  under  cer- 
tain conditions  a  complete  organ  of  the  infusorian  body  (the 
nucleus)  dies  and  is  absorbed.  Such  death  of  a  part,  how- 
ever, is  not  followed  by  death  of  the  whole,  and  as  the 

1  Physiologic  g/ntrale,  1900,  p.  381. 


continuous  destruction  of  some  of  the  cells  in  our  own 
bodies  is  not  regarded  as  our  death,  the  criticism  of  the 
German  physiologist  cannot  be  accepted. 

It  is  not  only  the  extremely  short-lived  microscopic  organ- 
isms that  escape  death.  Some  of  the  higher  plants,  which 
may  attain  to  gigantic  size,  encounter  death  only  by  acci- 
dents. There  is  nothing  to  be  found  in  the  nature  of  their 
organisation  which  would  seem  to  indicate  that  death  is  the 
inevitable  or  even  probable  result  of  their  constitutions. 

The  longevity  of  some  trees  has  long  been  notorious,  as 
these  appear  to  live  for  many  centuries  and  to  die  only 
when  they  are  overwhelmed  by  the  ravages  of  a  storm  or 
killed  by  human  agency. 

When  the  Canary  Islands  were  discovered,  in  the  begin- 
ning of  the  fifteenth  century,  the  early  explorers  were  struck 
with  the  gigantic  size  of  a  dragon  tree  which  was  venerated 
by  the  natives  as  their  tutelary  deity.  The  tree  stood  in 
a  Garden  at  Orotava  in  Teneriffe,  and  even  in  these  early 
days,  its  huge  trunk  contained  a  gigantic  hollow.  The  tree 
did  not  reward  the  worship  of  the  natives,  who  were  anni- 
hilated by  the  Spaniards,  and  it  survived  them  for  nearly 
four  centuries.  At  the  end  of  the  eighteenth  century  it  was 
seen  by  Humboldt,1  who  found  that  the  trunk  was  forty- 
five  feet  in  circumference,  and  who  attributed  to  it  a  great 
age  because  dragon  trees  grow  extremely  slowly.  Early  in 
the  nineteenth  century  (1819)  a  furious  tempest  swept  over 
Orotava  and  with  a  gigantic  crash  nearly  a  third  of  the 
crown  of  leaves  and  branches  fell  on  the  ground.  Notwith- 
standing this  shock,  the  monster  survived  for  fifty  years. 
Berthelot,2  who  visited  it  in  1839,  described  it  as  follows  :  — 
"  A  dragon  tree  stood  in  front  of  my  dwelling,  grotesque  in 

1  Tableaux  de  la  nature  (French  translation),  1808,  vol.  ii,  p.  109. 
*  Webb  and  Berthelot,  Histoire  naturelle  des  ties  Canaries,  1839,  vol.  i, 
part  2,  pp.  97-98. 


form,  gigantic  in  size,  which  a  storm  had  smitten  without 
overwhelming.     Ten  men  would  have  much  ado  to  girdle 

FIG.  15. — The  Dragon-tree  of  the  villa  Orotava. 

its vast  trunk,  fifty  feet  in  circumference  at  the  ground. 
The  huge  column  had  a  deep  cave  within  it,  hollowed  by 
the  ages;  a  rustic  porch  gave  access  to  the  interior,  and  the 



lofty  dome,  although  half  had  been  destroyed  by  a  storm, 
still  bore  an  enormous  crown  of  branches." 

The  famous  dragon-tree  got  more  and  more  damaged, 
and  was  finally  overthrown  by  a  storm  in  1868.  A  few 
years  after  the  catastrophe  (in  1871)  I  myself  saw  the 
remains  of  the  colossus,  lying  on  the  ground  as  a  huge 
grey  mass  like  some  antediluvian  monster.  No  accurate 
estimate  of  its  age  can  be  formed,  but  it  must  have  lived 
several  thousand  years. 

Trees  have  been  known  which  were  still  older  than  the 
dragon-tree  of  Teneriffe.  One  of  the  best  known  is  the 
baobab  of  Cape  Verd,  described  by  Adanson.  "  This  re- 
markable tree  was  thirty  feet  in  diameter  when  the  famous 
French  naturalist  measured  and  described  it.  Three  centu- 
ries earlier,  some  English  sailors  had  cut  an  inscription  on 
it,  and  Adanson  laid  this  bare  by  removing  three  hundred 
layers  of  wood.  On  his  observations  Adanson  based  an 
estimate  of  5,150  years  as  the  age  of  the  tree.1  The  old 
cypresses  of  Mexico  are  thought  to  be  still  older.  A.  de 
Candolle2  concluded  that  the  cypress  of  Montezuma  was 
2,000  years  old  when  he  saw  it,  and  that  the  cypress  at 
Oazaca  was  much  older  than  the  tree  described  by  Adan- 
son. In  California,  trees  of  the  species  Sequoia  gigantea 
are  three  thousand  years  old,  and  Sargent,  an  American 
botanist,  attributes  to  some  of  them  an  age  of  at  least  five 
thousand  years. 

The  question  of  the  nature  of  individuality  in  the  vege- 
table world  has  been  raised  in  connection  with  the  longevity 
of  trees.  It  has  been  asked  if  a  tree  is  to  be  regarded  as  a 
single  individual  or  as  a  colony  of  many  plants  like  a 
branching  polyp.  It  is  a  difficult  question,  but  only  of 

1  Bibliotheque  universelle  de  Geneve,  1839,  vol.  xlvi,  p.  387. 

2  Ibid.,  p.  392. 


secondary  importance  from  the  point  of  view  of  this  dis- 
cussion. A.  de  Candolle,1  having  paid  special  attention  to 
the  subject,  came  to  the  conclusion  that  trees  do  not  die  of 
old  age,  that,  in  the  real  sense  of  the  phrase,  there  is  no 
natural  end  of  their  existence.  Many  botanists  agree  with 
him.  Naegeli 2  holds  that  a  tree  several  thousand  years  old 
dies  only  from  external  accidents. 

It  is  plain  that  amongst  the  lower  plants  and  the  higher 
plants  there  are  cases  where  natural  death  does  not  exist. 
Theoretically,  life  would  have  an  unlimited  duration,  sub- 
ject to  the  continuous  replacement  of  the  substance  of  the 
organism  in  the  normal  metabolism.  It  must  not  be 
inferred,  however,  that  there  is  no  such  occurrence  as 
natural  death  amongst  plants.  There  are  numerous  cases 
where  death  comes  quite  apart  from  the  agency  of  external 
forces.  Even  amongst  closely  related  plants  there  are  some 
cases  where  natural  death  does  not  occur,  and  others  where 
it  is  normal.  The  lower  fungi  offer  a  good  instance.  Some 
of  these  pass  through  a  longer  or  shorter  vegetative  stage 
and  then  the  living  mass  breaks  up  into  spores  (Myxomy- 
cetes).  The  whole  bulk  of  matter  is  not  transformed,  but 
the  remnant  consists  only  of  cuticular  secretions,  not  living 
cells.  In  other  fungi,  only  some  of  the  cells  transform  to 
spores,  the  others  dying  naturally. 

One  stage  of  the  life  history  of  some  lower  plants  is  of 
short  duration.  The  prothalli  of  some  cryptogams  (Mar- 
siliace<B)  live  only  a  few  hours,  just  long  enough  for  the 
appearance  of  the  sexual  organs.  When  these  are  ripe 
the  body  of  the  prothallus  and  all  its  constituent  cells  fall 
a  prey  to  natural  death.  In  such  cases  there  is  a  "  corpse," 

1  Bibliotheque  universelle  de  Geneve,  vol.  xlvii,  p.  49. 

2  Entstehung  u.  Begriff  d.  naturhistorischen  Art,  2nd   edit.,  Munich, 
1865,  p.  37. 

II    2 


composed  of  dead  cells  and  protoplasm.  Even  amongst  the 
higher  plants  there  are  instances  of  an  extremely  short  dura- 
tion of  life.  Amaryllis  lutea  passes  through  all  the  stages 
of  its  life-history  in  ten  days,  the  minimum  time  necessary 
for  the  sprouting  of  the  leaves  and  flowers  and  the  produc- 
tion of  the  seeds,  after  which  it  dies  naturally.1  It  is  inter- 
esting to  find  that  in  the  same  family  there  are  other  plants 
notable  for  long  duration  of  life.  The  Agave  requires  a 
century  to  produce  its  flowers  before  death  comes  naturally. 

Everyone  is  familiar  with  the  so-called  "  annual  "  plants 
which  live  only  a  few  months,  from  the  time  when  they 
sprout,  until,  after  the  production  of  seed,  death  comes  to 
them  naturally.  The  life  of  annuals,  however,  can  be  pre- 
served for  two  or  for  several  years.  Rye  is  normally  an 
annual,  but  some  varieties  are  able  to  live  for  two  years  and 
produce  two  crops.  The  Cossacks  of  the  Don  have  estab- 
lished this  fact,  and  have  cultivated  a  biennial  variety  of 
rye  for  many  years.2  Beetroot3  is  normally  biennial,  but 
has  been  changed  to  a  plant  which  lives  for  from  three  to 
five  years.  Such  instances  are  by  no  means  unique. 

Natural  death  can  be  postponed  if  the  plant  be  prevented 
from  seeding.  Professor  Hugo  de  Vries  has  prolonged  the 
life  of  the  Oenotheras  he  cultivates,  by  cutting  the  flowers 
before  fertilisation.  Under  ordinary  conditions  the  stem 
dies  after  producing  from  forty  to  fifty  flowers,  but,  if  cut- 
ting be  practised,  new  flowers  are  produced  until  the  winter 
cold  intervenes.  By  cutting  the  stem  sufficiently  early, 
the  plants  are  induced  to  develop  new  buds  at  the  base,  and 
these  buds  survive  winter,  and  resume  growth  in  the  fol- 

1  Griesebach,  Die  Vegetation  der  Erde. 

2  Batalin,  A  eta  Horti  Petropolitani,  vol.  xi,  no.  6,  1890,  p.  289. 

3  I  am  indebted  to  Prof.  Hugo  de  Vries  for  this  and  other  instances  of 
the  prolongation  of  life  in  plants. 


lowing  spring."  (Extract  from  a  letter  of  Prof.  H.  de 

The  grass  of  lawns  is  usually  mowed  before  it  begins  to 
flower,  so  as  to  prevent  the  ripening  of  the  seeds  and  the 
death  of  the  plant.  When  this  is  done,  the  grass  remains 
continually  green,  and  its  life  lasts  for  several  years. 

The  connection  between  the  seeding  of  plants  and  their 
natural  death  has  been  recognised  for  long,  and  is  usually 
explained  as  being  due  to  the  exhaustion  of  the  plant. 

As  I  am  not  a  botanist,  and  was  anxious  to  know  the 
views  of  botanists  on  natural  death,  I  wrote  to  Prof,  de 
Vries,  as  a  universally  accepted  authority.  The  distin- 
guished botanist  replied  to  me  as  follows.  "  Your  question 
is  extremely  difficult.  I  do  not  think  that  much  is  known 
as  to  the  exact  cause  of  the  death  of  annual  plants,  but  it  is 
customary  to  attribute  it  to  exhaustion."  All  the  botanists 
who  have  expressed  opinions  on  this  matter  appear  to 
hold  a  similar  view.  Hildebrand,1  the  author  of  a  memoir  on 
the  duration  of  life  in  plants,  stated  this  view  again  and 
again.  According  to  him  "  the  life  of  annuals  is  usually 
short  because  they  are  exhausted  by  their  extensive  produc- 
tion of  seeds  (p.  116)."  "Even  amongst  plants  which  pro- 
duce seeds  for  several  years,  there  are  some  which  are  pre- 
maturely exhausted  by  fructification  and  which  die  spon- 
taneously "  (p.  67).  In  the  prothallus  of  many  of  the 
higher  cryptogams,  the  formation  of  a  single  embryo  is 
followed  by  natural  death ;  as  Goebel 2  points  out,  the 
embryo  completely  absorbs  the  prothallus. 

As  plants  generally  obtain  their  food  with  ease,  it  is 
natural  to  ask  what  is  the  cause  of  the  exhaustion  after* 
seeding.  When  a  plant  which  cannot  resist  cold  dies  after 
it  has  produced  its  seeds  in  the  end  of  the  summer,  the  event 

1  Engler's  Botanische  Jahrbiicher,  Leipzig,  1882,  vol.  ii,  p.  51. 

2  Organog raphie  der  Pflanzen,  Idna,  1898-1901. 


is  natural  enough.  But  how  can  \ve  explain  the  death  of  an 
annual  plant  which  is  growing  in  a  rich  soil,  and  which  seeds 
in  the  beginning  of  the  summer,  as  being  due  to  exhaustion 
long  before  the  winter  cold.  It  frequently  happens  that 
after  harvest  new  shoots  spring  up  from  grains  which  have 
fallen.  The  soil  which  can  support  this  new  vegetation 
cannot  have  been  exhausted  by  the  cereal  in  question  ;  and 
there  has  been  enough  warmth  for  the  new  crop.  It  cannot 
be  the  external  conditions  which  have  caused  the  death  of 
the  parent  plant.  The  explanation  of  this  apparent  contra- 
diction has  been  sought  in  the  constitution  of  the  plant 
itself.  Hildebrand  remarks  that  "  certain  species  have  a 
constitution  which  tends  to  early  fructification.  As  soon  as 
the  seeds  have  been  set,  the  strength  of  the  plant  is  ex- 
hausted in  the  swelling  of  the  grains,  so  that  the  plant 
dies."  "  Other  species,  on  the  contrary,  are  so  constituted 
that  they  vegetate  for  a  long  time,  before  fruiting,  after 
which,  however,  they  also  die.  A  third  set  of  plants  have 
such  a  constitution  that  "  they  do  not  die  after  seeding, 
that  they  can  seed  often  and  live  for  many  years  "  (p.  113). 
Being  unable  to  indicate  exactly  the  intrinsic  mechanism 
of  these  different  "constitutions,"  several  botanists  ex- 
plain them  by  a  kind  of  teleological  predestination. 
According  to  Hildebrand  "the  nutritive  processes  of  a 
plant  have  no  other  purpose  than  to  make  it  capable  of 
reproduction  ;  this  final  end,  however,  can  be  reached  in 
different  modes  and  after  different  periods  of  time"  (p. 
132).  Goebel  sets  down  similar  views.  "In  heterosporous 
plants  the  whole  course  of  the  development  of  prothalli 
is  predetermined.  The  prothalli,  so  far  as  we  actually 
know,  to  use  the  phrase  of  theologians,  are  predestined; 
their  fate  is  determined  once  for  all  "  (p.  403).  M.  Massart l 
expresses  the  same  kind  of  view,  when  he  says  that  "  some- 
1  Bulletin  dtt  jardin  botanique  de  Bruxelles,  vol.  i,  no.  6,  1905. 


times  cells  die  because  their  work  is  finished,  and  they  have 
no  longer  any  reason  for  existing." 

Such  an  interpretation  of  the  facts  is  quite  opposed  to 
determinism,  and  makes  the  problem  of  natural  death  in 
the  plant  world  more  difficult  but  more  interesting. 

The  modern  scientific  conception  of  the  universe  excludes 
the  idea  of  predestination.  The  relations  between  fructifi- 
cation and  natural  death  must  be  regulated  by  the  law  of 
selection,  according  to  which  no  organism  survives  if  its 
reproduction  is  impossible.  It  occasionally  happens  that 
children  are  born  without  organs  which  are  indispensable 
to  life.  Such  monsters  of  different  kinds  being  non-viable, 
cannot  be  said  to  be  predestined  to  death,  as  they  die 
because  of  defects  in  their  structure.  Others  are  born  with 
all  that  is  necessary  for  life,  and  survive  for  that  reason, 
not  because  they  are  predestined  to  life.  So  also  species 
of  plants  which  develop  incompletely  and  which  die  before 
they  have  produced  spores  or  seeds,  cannot  survive ;  whilst 
those  which  die  after  having  given  birth  to  the  next  genera- 
tion survive  in  their  descendants.  However  quickly  death 
follow  the  production  of  seed,  the  species  will  survive 
equally  well.  The  cause  of  the  natural  death  of  plants 
must  be  sought,  therefore,  not  in  predestination,  but  in 
the  mechanism  of  the  organic  processes. 

Nothing  seems  more  probable  than  that  a  plant  should 
die  when  all  its  organic  forces  have  been  exhausted.  It 
would  be  interesting,  however,  to  ascertain  the  mechanism 
of  that  exhaustion,  and  this  especially  because  it  is  often 
very  difficult  to  imagine  a  cause  for  it.  Many  plants  exist 
which  produce  several  generations  each  season,  in  the  same 
soil,  without  exhausting  it.  In  perennial  plants,  some  parts, 
such  as  the  flowers,  die  periodically,  although  the  plant 
itself  is  not  exhausted.  Everyone  has  seen  that  in  gera- 


niums  some  of  the  flowers  wither  whilst  others  are  bloom- 
ing, the  process  going  on  throughout  the  season.  We  can 
scarcely  attribute  such  a  natural  death  of  the  flowers  to  any 
exhaustion  of  the  plant  which  continues  to  produce  new 

The  fairly  frequent  prolongation  of  the  life  of  plants  is 
also  out  of  harmony  with  the  theory  of  natural  death  as  the 
result  of  exhaustion.  It  sometimes  happens  that  male 
plants  produce  female  flowers  abnormally ;  cases  of  this 
kind  have  been  observed  in  willows,  stinging-nettles,  hops, 
and  especially  in  maize.1  Here  we  have  to  deal  with  a 
kind  of  monstrosity,  differing,  however,  from  the  non- 
viable  monsters  of  the  human  race,  in  the  respect  that  the 
production  of  female  flowers  on  the  male  branches  results 
in  the  prolongation  of  their  lives.  Generally  the  male 
branches  die  a  natural  death  as  soon  as  the  pollen  has  been 
shed,  and  therefore  some  time  before  the  death  of  the 
female  flowers.  If,  however,  a  male  branch  bears  a  female 
flower  which  becomes  fertilised,  then  the  life  of  the  branch 
is  prolonged  until  the  seeds  ripen.  If  the  natural  death  of 
the  male  flowers  is  the  result  of  exhaustion  due  to  the 
development  of  the  pollen,  how  can  we  reconcile  this  with 
the  prolongation  of  life  in  a  case  where  the  male  branch 
has  also  female  flowers  to  nourish  and  seeds  to  mature  ? 

It  is  quite  clear  that  natural  death,  in  such  cases,  is  the 
result  of  a  mechanism  more  complex  than  simple  ex- 

Prof,  de  Vries  has  already  noted  that  the  duration  of  life 
in  plants  depends  on  their  vital  processes.  That  view  im- 
plies that  there  are  some  qualities  inherent  in  its  organisa- 
tion which  can  prolong  or  shorten  the  life  of  a  plant,  and  it 

1  Hugo  de  Vries,  Jahrbiicher  fiir  wissensch.  Botanik,  1890,  vol.  xxii, 
p.  52. 


is  here  that  we  ought  to  find  the  key  to  the  problem  of 
natural  death  in  the  vegetable  world.  However,  to  gain 
exact  knowledge  of  such  factors,  it  would  be  necessary  to 
have  information  on  many  points  in  plant  physiology 
which  unfortunately  are  very  imperfectly  known.  In  this 
respect,  the  vital  conditions  of  the  simplest  plants,  such 
as  yeasts  and  bacteria,  have  been  investigated  much  more 
fully.  It  is  true  that  such  low  organisms  reproduce  freely 
either  by  division  or  by  budding,  so  that  they  are  amongst 
the  organisms  in  which  natural  death  is  not  inevitable. 
None  the  less,  in  their  lives  phenomena  occasionally  present 
themselves  which  can  be  interpreted  as  cases  of  natural 

At  a  time  when  it  was  still  unknown  that  all  fermenta- 
tion was  due  to  the  action  of  microscopic  plants,  it  had 
been  observed  that,  in  certain  conditions,  fermentation 
ceased  much  more  quickly  than  in  other  conditions.  For 
instance,  when  sugar  is  being  transformed  to  lactic  acid, 
it  is  useful  to  add  chalk,  as  otherwise  the  fermentation  stops 
before  the  greater  part  of  the  sugar  has  been  acted  upon. 
When,  in  1857,  Pasteur  made  his  great  discovery  of  the 
lactic  acid  microbe,  he  showed  that  that  little  organism, 
although  it  could  produce  lactic  acid,  was  interfered  with 
by  an  'excess  of  the  acid.  To  secure  complete  fermenta- 
tion, it  was  necessary  to  neutralise  the  acid  by  the  addition 
of  chalk. 

When  the  action  of  lactic  acid  is  continued  too  long,  it 
not  only  arrests  the  process  of  fermentation  but  definitely 
kills  the  microbe.  It  is  for  that  reason  that  it  has  been 
found  difficult  to  preserve  the  lactic  acid  ferment  for  a  long- 
time in  a  living  condition.  Amongst  the  ferments  which 
have  been  isolated  from  Egyptian  '  leben  '  by  MM.  Rist 
and  Khoury 1  there  is  one  which  is  extremely  delicate. 
1  Annales  de  flnstitut  Pasteur,  1902,  p.  71. 


When  it  is  inoculated  deep  in  a  nutritive  medium,  it  dies 
in  a  few  days,  death,  without  doubt,  being  due  to  the 
lactic  acid  produced  by  the  microbe  from  the  sugar  and 
not  neutralised.  As  this  transformation  of  sugar  into 
lactic  acid  is  a  fundamental  property  of  the  microbe,  de- 
pending on  its  constitution,  the  arrest  of  the  fermentation 
and  the  death  of  the  ferment  in  these  definite  'Conditions 
can  be  interpreted  only  as  natural  death  due  to  auto-intoxi- 
cation, that  is  to  say  to  poisoning  by  a  product  of  the 
physiological  activity  of  the  microbe  itself.  As  death 
takes  place  at  a  time  when  the  medium  still  contains 
enough  sugar  for  the  nutrition  of  the  microbe,  it  is  certain 
that  it  cannot  be  the  result  of  exhaustion.  This  case  of 
the  lactic  acid  ferment  is  not  unique.  The  microbe  which 
produces  butyric  acid  is  also  interfered  with  by  the  acid 
it  secretes.  M.  G.  Bertrand,  who  has  examined  carefully 
the  microbe  which  produces  fermentation  in  sorbose  (sugar 
extracted  from  fruit  of  the  service-tree)  (Sorbus  domestica) 
has  informed  me  that  this  fermentation,  too,  ceases  under 
the  influence  of  the  secretions  of  the  microbes,  and  that 
the  microbes  undergo  natural  death  at  a  time  when  the 
medium  is  far  from  exhausted  of  the  nutritive  material. 
The  yeast  which  produces  alcohol  is  also  interfered  with 
by  an  excess  of  alcohol,  and  as  soon  as  a  certain  limit 
of  alcoholic  strength  has  been  reached,  fermentation  stops. 
When  the  yeast  is  grown  in  media  rich  in  nitrogen  and 
poor  in  sugar,  the  plant  takes  the  nitrogenous  material 
and  produces  salts  of  ammonia.  These  alkalies  damage 
the  yeast  and  cause  its  death  by  auto-intoxication.1 

In  the  examples  that  I  have  given,  natural  death  was 
a  result  of  the  activity  of  the  microbes,  and  was  in  cor- 
relation   with    their    organisation.     Such    death    can    be 
1  Duclaux,  Microbiologie,  vol.  iii,  1900,  p.  460. 


avoided  by  changing  the  external  conditions,  and,  if  the 
acids  or  alkalies  produced  by  these  bacteria  are  neutralised, 
the  bacteria  survive.  The  facts  are  in  harmony  with  those 
that  I  described  in  the  case  of  the  higher  plants.  By  pre- 
venting the  ripening  of  seed,  the  life  of  many  annual 
plants  may  be  preserved  and  the  plants  changed  to  bi- 
ennials or  perennials.  In  such  cases  death,  although  the 
result  of  the  constitution  of  the  plant,  may  be  postponed. 

We  may  ask  then  if  the  natural  death  of  higher  plants, 
usually  attributed  to  exhaustion,  cannot  be  explained  more 
simply  as  the  result  of  poisons  produced  in  their  meta- 
bolism. Many  plants  produce  poisons  which  are  fatal  to 
animals  and  man.  May  they  not  also  produce  substances 
fatal  to  themselves?  There  is  nothing  improbable  in  the 
supposition  that  some  of  the  poisons  may  develop  when 
the  seeds  are  ripening.  By  preventing  the  latter  process, 
the  ripening  of  the  whole  organism  may  also  be  prevented. 
Such  a  theory  would  explain  the  many  cases  of  natural 
death  which  occur  whilst  the  cell  is  far  from  having  reached 
exhaustion.  The  equally  numerous  cases  of  partial  death, 
such  as  that  of  flowers,  whilst  the  same  stem  is  still  pro- 
ducing other  flowers  (e.g.  geraniums)  would  be  explained 
by  a  local  action  of  the  poisons  not  strong  enough  to  kill 
the  whole  plant. 

I  must  insist  that  this  theory,  that  natural  death  of  the 
higher  plants,  is  the  result  of  auto-intoxication,  is  a  mere 
hypothesis  which  future  investigations  may  disprove.  If, 
however,  it  comes  to  be  confirmed,  it  would  explain  the 
coincidence  of  death  and  fructification  more  simply  than 
the  hypothesis  of  predestination. 

The  higher  plants  may  be  subjects  of  auto-intoxica- 
tion in  the  same  fashion  as  bacteria  and  yeasts.  If  these 
poisons  were  produced  before  the  ripening  of  the  seeds, 


the  plants  would  remain  sterile,  leaving  no  descendants, 
so  that  the  race  would  become  extinct.  The  production  of 
poisons  at  the  time  of  fructification  would  not  interfere 
with  the  succession  of  generations,  and  the  race  would  be 
preserved.  As  the  poisoning  is  not  necessary,  it  is  easy 
to  understand  why  many  plants  survive  seeding  and  escape 
natural  death.  The  Dragon-tree,  baobab,  and  the  cedars, 
which  I  spoke  of  earlier,  would  be  examples  of  such  escape. 

Although  the  existence  of  auto-intoxication  in  the  higher 
plants  is  still  only  a  hypothesis,  the  natural  death  of  bac- 
teria and  yeasts  by  poisons  which  they  themselves  produce 
is  an  ascertained  fact. 

In  the  plant  world,  therefore,  there  are  examples  of 
natural  death  (bacteria  and  yeasts)  due  to  auto-intoxica- 
tion, and  there  are  other  cases  where  high  or  low  plants 
escape  natural  death. 



Different  origins  of  natural  death  in  animals — Examples  of 
natural  death  associated  with  violent  acts — Examples  of 
natural  death  in  animals  without  digestive  organs — Natural 
death  in  the  two  sexes — Hypothesis  as  to  the  cause  of  natural 
death  in  animals 

THE  cases  of  natural  death  amongst  animals  differ  from 
those  found  in  the  vegetable  world  by  their  greater  variety 
and  complexity.  As  M.  Massart  has  shown  for  plants, 
so  also  natural  death  must  have  become  established  inde- 
pendently in  different  groups  of  animals.  In  some  cases, 
the  characters  presented  are  strange  and  almost  para- 

It  is  usual  to  contrast  natural  death  with  violent  death 
on  account  of  the  difference  between  the  two.  None  the 
less,  natural  death  may  occur  in  the  animal  kingdom,  that 
is  to  say  death  resulting  directly  from  the  constitution, 
and  yet  in  intimate  association  with  violent  acts.  I  will 
give  some  examples. 

Small,  helmet-shaped  organisms,  transparent  and  grace- 
ful, are  common  on  the  surface  of  the  sea.  These  have 
been  described  by  zoologists  under  the  name  Pilidium. 
The  organisation  is  simple.  The  body  wall  is  a  delicate 
pellicle,  through  which,  on  the  lower  surface,  a  mouth 
leads  into  a  capacious  stomach.  Continual  movements  of 


waving  cilia  direct  small  particles  of  food  through  the 
mouth  to  the  digestive  stomach.  As  there  are  no  organs 
of  reproduction,  it  was  assumed  that  these  creatures  were 
not  adults,  but  floating  larvae  of  some  marine  animal, 
and,  after  a  good  deal  of  trouble,  it  was  found  that  the 
Pilidia  were  the  young  stages  of  ribbon-shaped  worms  of 
the  group  of  Nemertines.  At  a  definite  stage  in  the  life- 
history,  a  foetus  begins  to  develop  round  about  the  stomach 
of  the  Pilfdium,  and  eventually  completely  encloses  it  and 
detaches  it  by  violent  muscular  contractions.  The  end  of 
the  story  is  that  the  foetus  abandons  the  body  of  the 
Pilidium  carrying  off  with  it  the  stomach,  an  organ  neces- 
sary to  the  maintenance  of  life.  The  remnant  of  the  Pili- 
dium swims  about  in  the  sea-water,  but  soon  dies  as  the 
result  of  the  mortal  wound  caused  by  the  removal  of  the 
digestive  organs. 

The  act  by  which  the  Nemertine  separates  from  its 
mother  is  violent,  and  yet  the  death  of  the  Pilidium 
must  be  regarded  as  natural.  It  is  the  result  of  agencies 
within  the  body  and  not,  as  in  most  cases  of  accidental 
death,  of  violence  from  without. 

The  group  of  Nematode  worms  contains  many  common 
intestinal  parasites  of  man,  such  as  Ascaris,  Trichina, 
Trichocephalus,  Oxyuris,  &c.,  but  also  others  that  live 
free  in  soil  or  water  or  in  such  fluids  as  vinegar.  They 
are  protected  by  a  strong  cuticle,  and  some  of  them  are 
viviparous,  that  is  to  say,  instead  of  laying  eggs  they  give 
birth  to  young  worms  already  well  grown  and  capable  of 
independent  activity.  Amongst  the  human  Nematode 
parasites,  the  Trichinae  give  birth  to  swarms  of  small  larvae 
which  easily  escape  from  the  body  of  the  mother  by  the 
female  generative  aperture.  In  the  case  of  some  free-living 
Nematodes,  however,  the  female  aperture  is  too  small  to 


give  passage  to  the  rather  stout  larvae.  More  than  forty 
years  ago,  when  I  was  investigating  the  life-history1  of 
one  of  these  Nematodes  (Diplogaster  tridentatus)  I  was 
struck  by  the  fact  that  the  larvae  could  leave  the  body  of 
the  mother  only  by  violence  and  after  they  had  devoured 
most  of  its  substance.  These  larvae  develop  from  eggs 
produced  within  the  maternal  body.  As  the  external  re- 
productive aperture  of  the  female  is  minute,  the  larvae 
cannot  escape  through  it,  but  wander  amongst  the  tissues 
tearing  and  absorbing  them.  The  mother  soon  dies,  and 
although  her  death  is  violent,  it  must  be  included  in  the 
category  of  natural  death. 

From  the  ideological  point  of  view  it  might  be  said 
that  Pilidium  and  Diplogaster  cease  to  live  because  they 
have  fulfilled  their  function  of  giving  rise  to  a  Nemertine 
or  young  Nematodes.  Their  natural  death  would  thus 
be  predestined.  There  is  no  ground  for  such  an  interpre- 
tation. On  the  other  hand,  it  is  certain  that  this  death, 
coming  after  the  birth  of  the  new  generation,  is  in  no  way 
against  the  preservation  of  the  species  in  which  the  extra- 
ordinary natural  death  by  violence  occurs.  If  the  female 
orifice  of  Diplogaster  were  slightly  larger,  the  larvae  would 
emerge  without  difficulty  and  without  causing  the  death  of 
the  mother  which  none  the  less  would  have  fulfilled 
her  purpose. 

All  the  cases  of  natural  death  amongst  animals  are  not 
so  brutal  as  those  of  the  Pilidium  and  the  Nemertine  worms. 
In  many  instances  the  death  is  peaceful.  As  very  fre- 
quently it  is  difficult  to  establish  definitely  that  the  death  is 
natural,  I  shall  select  clear  cases. 

Animals  are  occasionally  found  which  are  devoid  of  some 
organ  necessary  for  prolonged  life.  The  absence  of  a 

1  Archil',  fiir  Anatomic  und  Physiologic,  1864. 


digestive  tract  in  an  animal  that  lives  in  an  environment 
rich  in  dissolved  nutritive  material  (as  for  instance  tape- 
worms living  in  the  intestinal  tract)  is  not  surprising. 
But  when  creatures  of  the  sea  6r  of  fresh  water  have  no 
digestive  tract,  their  life  can  be  maintained  only  at  the 
expense  of  nutritive  material  stored  within  them  during 
embryonic  life.  The  death  which  conies  eventually  is  truly 
natural.  The  best  cases,  that  is  to  say  those  which  can 
be  studied  most  completely,  of  such  natural  death  occur 
amongst  the  Rotifera.  These  are  minute  creatures  of  fresh 
or  sea  water,  at  one  time  confused  with  the  Infusoria, 
but  possessed  of  a  much  more  complex  organisation.  They 
have  a  well-developed  digestive  tube,  organs  of  excretion, 
nervous  system,  and  organs  of  sense.  The  animals  are  di- 
oecious ;  in  each  species  both  males  and  females  exist. 
Whilst  the  females  have  the  complete  structure  of  the 
species,  the  males  are  much  reduced,  and  are  devoid  of 
a  digestive  canal.  The  cuticle  is  fairly  stout,  and  they 
are  unable  to  absorb  dissolved  nutriment  through  it;  as 
they  have  no  organs  of  digestion,  their  life  must  be 

To  study  in  detail  the  life  and  death  of  these  creatures,  I 
selected  a  species  sent  to  me  by  M.  Haffkine.  So  far  as 
I  can  judge,  the  species  in  question  is  a  hitherto  unknown 
member  of  the  genus  Pleurotrocha,  and  I  propose  for  it 
the  name  Pleurotrocha  haffkini.  This  rotifer  is  convenient 
to  study  as  it  thrives  in  vessels  containing  fresh-water  to 
which  some  bread-crumb  has  been  added  (in  the  propor- 
tion of  a  gram  of  bread  to  500  grams  of  water). 

The  sexes  of  the  little  rotifer  can  be  distinguished  from 
the  earliest  age,  for  eggs  that  are  to  become  females  are 
much  larger  than  those  from  which  males  develop.  It 
is  easy  to  isolate  the  male  eggs  and  to  follow  the  life-history 


up  to  the  moment  of  natural  death.  The  whole  course  of 
life  from  the  laying  of  the  egg  until  death  lasts  only  about 
three  days,  and  is  probably  the  shortest  duration  of  life 
in  the  animal  kingdom.  Although  some  Ephemeridae  live 
only  a  few  hours  in  the  adult  state,  their  total  life-cycle 
is  much  longer  than  that  of  the  rotifers,  as  the  larval  stages 
last  for  months  or  even  for  years. 

The  little  males  (Fig.  16)  begin  to  swim  soon  after 
hatching,  the  wheel-apparatus  and  the  musculature  being 
vigorous.  They  seek  out  the  females,  as  their  reproduc- 
tive organs  are  mature  almost  at  the  moment  of  hatching. 
The  transparent  body,  which  is  devoid  of  digestive  ap- 

paratus, swarms  with  mobile  spermatozoa.  As  soon  as 
the  male  has  seized  a  female,  he  discharges  the  contents 
of  his  body.  It  might  be  supposed  that  such  an  evacuation 
would  cause  a  violent  perturbation  of  the  system  leading 
to  the  death  of  the  organism.  There  is  no  question  of  this 
however.  The  males  are  able  to  live  for  twenty-four  hours 
after  having  accomplished  their  function,  and  the  period 
represents  a  third  of  their  total  duration  of  life.  More- 
over, I  have  isolated  males  from  females  without  any  pro- 
longation of  their  lives.  In  one  experiment,  I  isolated 
two  males  and  placed  a  third  in  company  with  two  females. 
It  was  the  third  specimen  that  lived  longest. 

The  natural  death  of  the  males  is  foreshadowed  by  a 
weakening  of  the  movements;  although  the  muscles  and 



cilia  remain  mobile,  the  whole  animal  moves  only  spas- 
modically; sometimes  the  muscles  of  the  head  contract, 
sometimes  those  of  the  tail,  but  no  locomotion  occurs. 
Occasionally  there  is  a  violent  effort  of  ciliary  motion  as  if 
the  attempt  were  being  made  to  overcome  the  immobility 
of  the  body.  Such  a  condition  lasts  for  several  hours  and 
is  followed  by  death.  The  spermatozoa  inside  the  body 
retain  activity  last  of  all. 

Towards  the  crisis,  bacteria,  which  abound  in  the  medium 
occupied  by  the  rotifers,  begin  to  attack  the  males.  Some 
cluster  round  the  head,  others  round  the  tail,  although 
none  of  them  can  effect  entrance  to  the  body.  The  death 
of  the  males  cannot  be  attributed  to  microbial  infection, 
but  comes  from  some  intrinsic  cause. 

Is  it  inanition  that  is  the  cause  of  death  ?  I  do  not 
think  so,  because  up  to  the  time  of  death  the  tissues  appear 
to  be  unmodified.  In  the  case  of  the  females  I  have  some- 
times seen  phenomena  of  inanition.  In  old  and  exhausted 
cultures  the  starved  females  become  thin,  flattened  and 
quite  transparent,  and  the  tissues  lose  their  granular  ap- 
pearance. No  such  changes  are  visible  in  the  dying  males, 
the  tissues  of  which,  on  the  contrary,  retain  a  normal 

The  most  probable  explanation  is  that  death  comes  from 
poisoning  by  the  secretions  of  the  tissues  themselves.  The 
large  size  of  the  organs  of  excretion  indicates  that  in  the 
course  of  metabolism  waste  matter  is  produced  some  of 
which  is  got  rid  of.  If,  after  a  time,  the  secretions  are 
insufficiently  eliminated,  the  tissues  must  be  poisoned.  As 
death  is  preceded  by  a  spasm  of  uncoordinated  movement, 
it  appears  as  if  the  fatal  intoxication  of  the  males  affected 
the  nervous  system  first.  The  vibrating  cilia  and  the 
muscles  are  attacked  later. 

There  can  be  no  doubt  but  that  the  death  of  these  male 


rotifers  is  natural  in  the  fullest  sense.  The  females,  how- 
ever, although  they  are  provided  with  complete  digestive 
organs,  do  not  escape  a  similar  fate.  Their  life  is  longer 
and  more  complex  than  that  of  the  males,  and  so  is  subject 
to  many  more  chances.  The  females  therefore  may  come 
to  die  from  starvation  or  from  other  external,  accidental 
causes.  But,  if  they  are  kept  in  favourable  conditions, 
they  may  live  for  about  fifteen  days,  towards  the  end  of 
which  they  die  naturally,  exhibiting  the  symptoms  that  I 
have  described  in  the  case  of  the  males  (Fig.  17). 

Rotifers  are  not  the  only  animals  which  undergo  natural 
death  in  a  fashion  quite  unlike  the  violent  end  of  Pilidium 

FIG.  17.— Female  Pleurotrocha  haffkini,  which  has  died  a  natural  death. 

and  Diplogaster.  There  are  other  cases  amongst  inverte- 
brates, but  I  shall  limit  myself  to  describing  one  that  is 
well  ascertained. 

More  than  fifty  years  ago,  Dana,  the  American 
naturalist,  discovered  a  pelagic  marine  creature  with  char- 
acters so  curious  that  he  gave  to  it  the  name  Monstrilla. 
It  is  a  little  crustacean  akin  to  the  Cyclops  of  lakes.  But 
although  the  latter  is  endowed  with  the  organs  necessary 
to  capture  and  digest  food,  Monstrilla  has  neither  organs 
of  prehension  nor  a  digestive  canal.  It  is  a  highly  muscu- 
lar animal  with  organs  of  sense  and  reproduction  and  a 
nervous  system  ;  but  it  is  devoid  of  apparatus  for  prolong- 



ing  life  by  nutrition. 
Monstrilla  therefore  is  a 
creature  doomed  to 
natural  death. 

The    detailed    observa- 
tions  of    M.    Malaquin1 
have  supplied  full    infor- 
mation    regarding    this 
strange  life-history.  Mon- 
strilla passes  a  portion  of 
.5    its  life  as  a    parasite    on 
jf  Annelid  worms.     In  that 


stage  it  accumulates  the 
necessary  material  for  the 
growth  of  the  sexual  pro- 
ducts (ova  and  sperma- 
tozoa) and  for  free  life  in 
the  sea  whilst  the  young 
are  developing.  It  is  not 
only  the  males  which 
have  no  digestive  appara- 
tus. The  females  also 
lack  it,  which  is  the  more 
surprising  as  they  carry 
about  the  eggs  attached 
to  the  body  (as  is  done  by 
many  other  Crustacea, 
such  as  crayfish  and  lob- 
sters) until  the  young  are 
ready  to  hatch  (Fig.  18). 
M.  Malaquin  thinks  that 
Monstrillas  die  of  starvation. 
1  Archives  de  Zoologie  exptrimentale,  1901,  vol.  ix,  p.  81. 


"  As  they  are  without  a  digestive  tube  or  organs  of 
prehension  or  mastication,"  M.  Malaquin  says  (p.  192), 
"  the  Monstrillas,  which  have  no  means  of  nutrition,  are 
doomed  to  death  from  inanition  after  a  short  pelagic  life. 
This  is  a  logical  inference  from  their  structure." 

In  support  of  his  view,  M.  Malaquin  states  that  before 
death  the  tissues  and  organs  show  plain  signs  of  degenera- 

"  The  eyes  first  show  traces  of  degeneration.  The  pig- 
ment spreads  and  disappears  little  by  little  and  then  the 
visual  elements  fade  out." 

"  Finally,  individuals,  usually  females,  show  complete 
degeneration.  A  female  taken  in  a  fine-meshed  net  showed 
no  trace  of  organs  in  the  head;  the  eyes,  the  brain  and 
the  intestinal  tract  had  disappeared  almost  completely. 
The  antennae  were  reduced  to  stumps  consisting  of  the 
lowest  joint  and  a  portion  of  the  second.  These  were  clear 
indications  of  the  senility  that  precedes  death  "  (p.  194). 

Such  evidence  not  only  supports  the  hypothesis  that 
the  natural  death  of  Monstrilla  is  due  to  inanition,  but 
is  opposed  to  a  similar  interpretation  being  applied  to  the 
case  of  male  rotifers,  in  which  death  is  not  preceded  by 
wasting  of  the  organs.  The  death  of  some  insects,  which 
comes  rapidly  after  the  adult  stage  has  been  reached,  cannot 
readily  be  attributed  to  starvation.  In  the  strange  butter- 
flies known  as  psychids  (Solcnobid)  some  of  the  females 
lay  eggs  without  having  been  fertilised,1  and  their  life  in 
the  adult  condition  lasts  only  a  day.  On  the  other  hand, 
other  females  of  the  same  butterfly  are  fertilised  before 
laying  their  eggs  and  in  this  case  survive  for  more  than 
a  week  although  they  take  no  food.  The  rapid  death  of 
the  first-mentioned  set  cannot  be  attributed  to  inanition. 
1  Observations  of  Dr.  Speyer,  quoted  by  Weismann. 


In  some  Ephemeridce,  which  supply  good  cases  of 
natural  death,  the  end  comes  after  a  few  hours  of  adult 
life  without  any  sign  of  degeneration  of  the  organs.  As 
in  others  (Chloe),  life  lasts  for  several  days  without  food 
having  been  taken,  it  is  clear  that  inanition  is  not  the 
cause  of  the  swift  arrival  of  death  in  the  first  set.  It  is 
much  more  probable  that  the  natural  death  is  due  to  an 
auto-intoxication  which  takes  effect  at  different  intervals 
of  time  in  different  circumstances.1 

In  the  higher  animals  such  as  vertebrates  the  conditions 
are  less  favourable  than  in  the  case  of  insects  for  the  in- 
vestigation of  the  causes  of  natural  death.  Vertebrates 
have  always  well-developed  organs  of  digestion  and  so 
live  a  relatively  longer  time  and  encounter  a  greater  number 
of  chances  of  accident,  with  the  result  that  in  most  cases 
death  comes  from  external  accidental  causes.  Vertebrates 
usually  perish  from  hunger  or  cold,  or  are  devoured  by 
their  enemies  or  killed  by  the  attacks  of  parasites  or  dis- 
eases. There  remains  only  the  human  race  amongst  the 
more  highly  developed  animals,  in  which  to  study  the 
onset  of  natural  death.  And  in  the  human  race  cases 
which  may  be  designated  as  natural  are  extremely  rare. 
1  See  The  Nature  of  Man. 



Natural  death  in  the  aged — Analogy  of  natural  death  and 
sleep — Theories  of  sleep — Ponogenes — The  instinct  of  sleep 
— The  instinct  of  natural  death — Replies  to  critics — Agree- 
able sensation  at  the  approach  of  death 

THE  death  of  old  people,  which  has  often  been  described  as 
natural  death,  is  in  most  cases  due  to  infectious  diseases, 
particularly  pneumonia  (which  is  extremely  dangerous)  or 
to  attacks  of  apoplexy.  True  natural  death  must  be  very 
rare  in  the  human  race.  Demange l  has  described  it  as 
follows  : — "  Arrived  at  extreme  old  age,  and  still  preserv- 
ing the  last  flickers  of  an  expiring  intelligence,  the  old  man 
feels  weakness  gaining  on  him  from  day  to  day.  His 
limbs  refuse  to  obey  his  will,  the  skin  becomes  insensitive, 
dry,  and  cold ;  the  extremities  lose  their  warmth ;  the  face 
is  thin ;  the  eyes  hollow  and  the  sight  weak ;  speech  dies 
out  on  his  lips  which  remain  open ;  life  quits  the  old  man 
from  the  circumference  towards  the  centre ;  breathing  grows 
laboured,  and  at  last  the  heart  stops  beating.  The  old 
man  passes  away  quietly,  seeming  to  fall  asleep  for  the 
last  time."  Such  is  the  course  of  what  properly  speaking 
is  natural  death. 

The  natural  death  of  human  beings  cannot  be  regarded 
as  due  to  exhaustion  from  reproduction  or  from  inanition, 

1  £tude  clinique  sur  la  vieillesse,  Paris,  1886,  p.  145. 


as  in  the  case  of  Monstrilla.  It  is  much  more  likely  that  it 
is  due  to  an  auto-intoxication  of  the  organism.  The  close 
analogy  between  natural  death  and  sleep  supports  this 
view,  as  it  is  very  probable  that  sleep  is  due  to  poisoning 
by  the  products  of  organic  activity. 

It  is  more  than  fifty  years  since  sleep  was  explained  as  the 
result  of  auto-intoxication.  Obersteiner,  Binz,  Preyer,  and 
Errera  are  among  the  competent  men  of  science  who  have 
taken  this  view.  The  first  two  attributed  sleep  to  an 
accumulation  in  the  brain  of  the  products  of  exhaustion 
which  are  carried  away  by  the  blood  during  repose.  The 
attempt  has  been  made  even  to  discover  the  nature  of  these 
narcotic  substances.  Some  investigators  think  that  an 
acid,  produced  during  the  activity  of  the  organs,  is  stored 
up  in  quantities  that  cannot  be  tolerated.  During  sleep, 
the  organism  gets  rid  of  this  excess  of  acid. 

Preyer1  tried  to  put  the  problem  upon  a  more  exact 
basis  by  the  theory  that  the  activity  of  all  the  organs  gives 
rise  to  substances  which  he  called  ponogenes  and  which 
he  regarded  as  producing  the  sensation  of  fatigue. 
According  to  him  these  substances  accumulate  during  the 
waking  hours,  and  are  destroyed  by  oxidation  during 
sleep.  Preyer  thinks  that  lactic  acid  is  the  most  important 
of  the  ponogenes,  and  lays  stress  on  its  narcotic  effect.  If 
his  theory  were  correct,  there  would  be  a  remarkable 
analogy  between  the  auto-intoxication  by  lactic  acid  in  the 
cases  of  man  and  animals,  and  the  case  of  bacteria  which 
produce  the  same  acid  and  the  fermenting  activity  of  which 
is  arrested  as  the  acid  accumulates.  Just  as  sleep  may  be 
transformed  to  natural  death,  so  also  the  arrest  of  lactic 
fermentation  may  be  followed  by  the  death  of  the  bacteria 
which  form  the  acid. 

1  Revue  scientifique,  1877,  p.  1173. 


So  far,  however,  there  has  been  no  confirmation  of 
Preyer's  theory.  Errera1  has  brought  forward  against  it 
another  theory  according  to  which  the  cause  of  sleep  is 
not  acid  products,  but  certain  alkaline  substances  described 
by  M.  Armand  Gautier  under  the  name  of  leucomaines. 
Gautier  laid  down  that  these  substances  act  on  the  nervous 
centres  and  produce  fatigue  and  sleepiness.  According  to 
Errera  they  might  very  well  be  the  cause  of  sleep,  as  that 
comes  on  at  a  time  when  there  is  the  greatest  accumulation 
of  these  leucomaines  in  the  body.  He  thinks  that  their 
action  in  producing  sleep  is  a  direct  intoxication  of  the 
nerve  centres.  During  sleep  they  are  removed,  and  the 
disturbance  which  was  produced  in  the  organism  is  arrested. 

If  it  were  possible  to  accept  Errera's  theory,  a  kind  of 
analogy  could  be  established  between  sleep  and  natural 
death  on  the  one  hand,  and  the  arrest  of  development  and 
death  of  yeast  grown  in  nitrogenous  media  on  the  other 
hand,  because  in  the  latter  case  the  poisoning  is  produced 
by  an  alkaline  salt  of  ammonia.  It  must  be  confessed, 
however,  that  the  actual  state  of  our  knowledge  does  not 
allow  of  a  definite  view  of  the  real  mechanism  of  the  sleep- 
producing  intoxication.  Our  ideas  regarding  leucomaines 
in  general  are  still  incomplete,  and,  recently,  one  of  them, 
adrenaline,  the  product  of  the  supra-renal  capsules,  has  been 
investigated.  Adrenaline  is  an  alkaloid2  which  is  pro- 
duced in  the  supra-renal  bodies  and  is  discharged  into  the 
blood.  It  has  the  power  of  contracting  arteries  strongly, 
and  has  been  used  to  control  blood-pressure.  When  it  is 
given  in  large  quantities  or  in  frequent  doses,  it  acts  as  a 
true  poison,  whilst,  in  small  doses,  it  produces  anaemia  of 
the  organs  and  has  a  special  influence  on  the  nervous 

1  Revue  scientifique,  1887,  2nd  part,  p.  105. 

8  Gabriel  Bertrand,  Annales  de  tlnstitut  Pasteur,  1904.  p.  672. 


centres.  Dr.  Zeigan  1  has  shown  that  a  milligramme  of 
adrenaline,  mixed  \vith  five  grammes  of  normal  salt  solu- 
tion injected  into  the  brain  of  cats,  produces  a  soporific 
action.  "  About  a  minute  after  the  injection,  the  animal 
appears  to  be  plunged  into  deep  sleep  which  lasts  from  30  to 
50  minutes.  During  this  time,  the  sensitiveness  of  the  animal 
has  completely  ceased  throughout  the  body,  and  for  some 
time  after  that  it  is  much  decreased.  When  they  awake 
the  animals  seem  to  have  been  drunk  with  sleep  for  some 
time."  Sleep  is  generally  associated  with  anaemia  of  the 
brain,  and  as  adrenaline  can  actually  produce  such  anaemia, 
it  might  be  supposed  that  this  narcotic  substance  is  the 
most  important  of  the  organic  products  which  give  rise 
to  sleep.  Against  this  hypothesis,  however,  some  weight 
must  be  given  to  recent  investigations  on  fatigue  and  its 

Each  stage  in  the  advance  of  knowledge  has  had  its 
influence,  on  the  study  of  the  interesting  and  complex 
problem  of  sleep.  When  it  was  thought  that  alkaloids 
(ptomaines)  were  of  great  importance  in  infectious  diseases, 
it  was  attempted  to  explain  sleep  as  due  to  the  action  of 
similar  bodies.  Now,  when  we  believe  that  in  such  diseases 
the  chief  part  is  played  by  poisons  of  extremely  complex 
chemical  composition,  the  attempt  is  made  to  explain 
fatigue  and  sleep  by  similar  bodies. 

Weichardt 2  has  recently  made  the  best  known  investiga- 
tions in  this  direction.  This  young  man  maintains  with 
ardour  the  view-  that  during  the  activity  of  organs  there  is 
an  accumulation  of  special  materials  which  are  neither 
organic  acids  nor  leucomaines,  but  which  are  much  more 
like  the  toxic  products  of  pathogenic  bacteria. 

1  Therapeutische  Monatshefte,  1904,  p.  193. 

2  Miinchener  medicinische  Wochenschrift,  1904,  No.  i  ;   Verhandlungen 
der  physiologischen  Gesellschaft  zu  Berlin,  Dec.  5th,  1904, 


Weichardt  made  animals  in  his  laboratory  go  through 
fatiguing  movements  for  hours  and  then  killed  them.  The 
extract  from  muscles  of  such  animals  had  a  powerful  toxic 
effect  when  it  was  injected  into  normal  animals,  producing 
lassitude  and  sometimes  death  within  20  to  40  hours.  As 
all  attempts  to  determine  the  exact  chemical  nature  of  this 
fatigue-producing  substance  were  baffled,  it  is  impossible 
to  get  an  exact  account  of  it.  Amongst  its  properties  there 
is  one  of  great  interest.  When  it  has  passed  into  the  cir- 
culation of  normal  animals  in  quantities  insufficient  to 
produce  death,  it  excites  the  formation  of  an  anti-toxin 
in  the  same  way  as  a  poison  of  diphtheria  stimulates  the 
production  of  a  diphtheria  anti-toxin. 

When  Weichardt  injected  into  animals  a  mixture  of  the 
poison  which  produces  fatigue  with  small  doses  of  the 
serum  antidote,  no  results  followed.  The  neutralising  effect 
of  the  antidote  was  apparent  even  when  it  was  introduced 
by  the  mouth.  Towards  the  end  of  his  investigations. 
Weichardt  supposed  that  it  would  be  possible  to  obtain  a 
material  that  would  prevent  fatigue. 

Although  it  is  still  impossible  to  specify  exactly  the 
nature  of  the  substances  which  accumulate  during  the 
activity  of  organs  and  which  produce  fatigue  and  sleep, 
it  is  becoming  more  and  more  probable  that  such  sub- 
stances exist,  and  that  sleep  is  really  an  auto-intoxication 
of  the  organism.  So  far,  such  a  theory  has  not  been  shaken 
by  any  argument.  Recently  M.  E.  Claparede,1  a  psycho- 
logist of  Geneva,  has  argued  against  the  current  theory 
of  sleep.  He  thinks  that  it  is  contradicted  by  the  fact  that 
new-born  infants  sleep  a  great  deal,  whilst  very  old  people 
sleep  very  little.  This  fact,  however,  can  readily  be  ex- 

1  Archives  des  sciences  physiques  et  naturelles,  Geneva,  March,  1905, 
vol.  xvii  ;  Archives  de  physiologic,  vol.  iv,  p.  245. 


plained  by  the  greater  sensibility  of  the  nerve  centres  of 
infants,  as  shown  with  regard  to  many  harmful  agencies. 
The  other  objections  of  Claparede,  such  as  the  fact  that 
sleepiness  is  induced  by  exercise  in  the  open  air,  or  that 
excess  of  sleep  itself  produces  sleepiness,  are  not  really 
incompatible  with  the  theory  of  auto-intoxication.  They 
are  facts  of  secondary  importance  probably  depending  on 
some  complication  which  the  present  state  of  our  know- 
ledge makes  it  difficult  to  indicate  exactly.  The  insomnia 
of  neurasthenia,  which  Claparede  brings  forward  as  another 
objection,  can  readily  be  explained  as  due  to  hyperaesthesia 
of  the  nervous  tissues  which  lose  part  of  their  sensitive- 
ness to  poisons. 

On  the  other  hand,  there  are  many  well  established  facts 
in  agreement  with  the  theory  of  auto-intoxication.  Leav- 
ing out  of  the  question  sleep  induced  by  narcotics,  I  may 
mention  in  this  connection  the  so-called  "sleeping  sick- 
ness." It  has  been  proved  that  this  disease  is  caused  by 
a  microscopic  parasite,  the  Trypanosoma  gambiense  of 
Dutton,  which  develops  in  the  blood  and  spreads  to  the 
liquid  of  the  membranes  surrounding  the  central  nervous 
system.  One  of  the  most  typical  symptoms  of  the  advanced 
stages  of  this  disease  is  continual  drowsiness.  "  The 
drowsiness  increases  progressively,  and  the  habitual  atti- 
tude becomes  characteristic ;  the  head  is  bent  on  the  breast ; 
the  eyelids  are  closed;  in  earlier  stages  the  invalid  can  be 
aroused  easily,  but,  after  a  time,  incurable  attacks  of  sleep 
overcome  the  patient  in  all  circumstances,  but  especially 
after  meals.  These  fits  of  sleepiness  become  longer  and 
deeper,  until  they  reach  a  comatose  condition  from  which 
it  is  almost  impossible  to  arouse  the  patient."1  The  total 

1  Laveran  and  Mesnil,  Trypanosomes  et  Trypanosomiases,  Paris,  1904, 
p.  328. 


result  of  medical  knowledge  of  this  disease  is  that  it  is 
impossible  to  doubt  that  the  sleepiness  is  due  to  intoxica- 
tion produced  by  the  poison  of  the  trypanosome. 

Claparede  has  opposed  what  he  calls  an  "  instinctive" 
theory  to  the  toxic  theory  of  sleep.  According  to  this 
theory,  sleep  is  the  manifestation  of  an  instinct  "  the  object 
of  which  is  to  arrest  activity ;  we  do  not  sleep  because  we 
are  intoxicated  or  exhausted,  but  to  prevent  ourselves  from 
falling  into  such  a  condition."  However,  in  order  to  bring 
this  narcotic  instinct  into  play,  certain  conditions  are  neces- 
sary, one  of  which  certainly  would  be  the  intoxication  of 
the  nerve  centres.  M.  Claparede  supposes  that  sleep  is  an 
active  phenomenon,  induced  when  waste  matter  begins  to 
accumulate  in  the  organism.  "  To  bring  about  sleep,  the 
nerve  centres  must  be  influenced  by  waste  matter,  and 
this  influence  can  readily  be  regarded  as  a  kind  of  intoxica- 

Hunger  is  an  i.nstinctive  sensation  as  much  as  sleepiness, 
but  it  does  not  appear  until  our  tissues  are  in  a  condition 
of  exhaustion,  the  exact  nature  of  which  cannot  as  yet  be 
indicated.  There  is  no  real  contradiction  between  the  toxic 
and  instinctive  theories  of  sleep.  The  two  theories  repre- 
sent different  sides  of  a  special  condition  of  the  organism. 

The  analogy  between  sleep  and  natural  death  is  in  favour 
of  the  supposition  that  the  latter,  also,  is  due  to  an  intoxica- 
tion much  more  profound  and  serious  than  that  which 
results  in  sleep.  Therefore,  as  natural  death  in  human 
beings  has  been  studied  only  very  superficially,  it  is  impos- 
sible to  do  more  than  frame  theories  regarding  it. 

It  would  be  natural  if,  just  as  in  sleep  there  is  an  instinc- 
tive desire  for  rest,  so  also  the  natural  death  of  man  were 
preceded  by  an  instinctive  wish  for  it.  As  I  have  already 
discussed  this  subject  in  the  "  Nature  of  Man  "  (chap,  xi) 


I  need  not  deal  with  it  at  length  here.  I  should  like,  how- 
ever, to  add  some  information  which  I  have  recently 

The  most  striking  fact  in  favour  of  the  existence  of  the 
instinct  for  natural  death  in  man  appears  to  me  to  have 
been  related  by  Tokarsky  in  regard  to  an  old  woman. 
While  Tokarsky  was  alive  I  asked  one  of  his  friends  to 
obtain  for  me  further  details  of  this  very  interesting  case. 
Unfortunately  Tokarsky  could  add  nothing  to  what  he  had 
already  published  in  his  article.  I  think  that  I  have  dis- 
covered the  source  of  his  information.  In  his  famous  book 
on  the  Physiology  of  Taste1  Brillat-Savarin  relates  as  fol- 
lows:— "A  great-aunt  of  mine  died  at  the  age  of  93. 
Although  she  had  been  confined  'to  bed  for  some  time  her 
faculties  were  still  well  preserved,  and  the  only  evidence 
of  her  condition  was  the  decrease  in  appetite  and  weaken- 
ing of  her  voice.  She  had  always  been  very  friendly  to 
me,  and  once  when  I  was  at  her  bedside,  ready  to  tend 
her  affectionately,  although  that  did  not  hinder  me  from 
seeing  her  with  the  philosophical  eye  that  I  always  turned 
on  everything  about  me,  'Is  it  you,  my  nephew?'  she 
said  in  her  feeble  voice.  '  Yes,  Aunt,  I  am  here  at  your 
service,  and  I  think  you  will  do  very  well  to  take  a  drop 
of  this  good  old  wine.'  '  Give  it  me,  my  dear ;  I  can  always 
take  a  little  wine.'  I  made  ready  at  once,  and  gently 
supporting  her,  gave  her  half  a  glass  of  my  best  wine. 
She  brightened  up  at  once,  and  turning  on  me  her  eyes 
which  used  to  be  so  beautiful,  said  :  '  Thank  you  very 
much  for  this  last  kindness ;  if  you  ever  reach  my  age  you 
will  find  that  one  wants  to  die  just  as  one  wants  to  sleep.' 
These  were  her  last  words,  and  in  half  an  hour  she  fell  into 
her  last  sleep."  The  details  make  it  certain  that  this  was' 
1  Paris,  1834,  4th  edition,  vol.  ii,  p.  118. 


a  case  of  the  instinct  of  natural  death.  The  instinct  showed 
itself  at  an  age  not  very  great  in  the  case  of  a  woman  who 
had  preserved  her  mental  faculties.  Generally,  however,  it 
seems  not  to  appear  till  much  later,  for  old  men  usually 
exhibit  a  keen  wish  to  live. 

It  is  a  well-known  saying  that  the  longer  a  man  has  lived 
the  more  he  wishes  to  live.  Charles  Renouvier,1  a  French 
philosopher  who  died  a  few  years  ago,  has  left  a  definite 
proof  of  the  truth  of  the  saying.  When  he  was  eighty- 
eight  years  old,  arid  knew  that  he  was  dying,  he  recorded  his 
impressions  in  his  last  days.  Let  me  quote  from  what  he 
wrote  four  days  before  his  death.  "  I  have  no  illusions  about 
my  condition  ;  I  know  quite  well  that  I  am  going  to  die,  per- 
haps in  a  week,  perhaps  in  a  fortn-ight.  And  I  have  still 
so  much  to  say  on  my  subject."  "At  my  age  I  have  no 
longer  the  right  to  hope  :  my  days  are  numbered,  and 
perhaps  my  hours.  1  must  resign  myself."  "  I  do  not  die 
without  regrets.  I  regret  that  I  cannot  foresee  in  any  way 
the  fate  of  my  views."  "  And  I  am  leaving  the  world 
before  I  have  said  my  last  word.  A  man  always  dies 
before  he  has  finished  his  work,  and  that  is  the  saddest  of 
the  sorrows  of  life."  "  But  that  is  not  the  whole  trouble, 
when  a  man  is  old,  very  old,  and  accustomed  to  life,  it  is 
very  difficult  to  die.  I  think  that  young  men  accept  the 
idea  of  dying  more  easily,  perhaps  more  willingly  than 
old  men.  When  one  is  more  than  eighty  years  old,  one  is 
cowardly  and  shrinks  from  death.  And  when  one  knows 
and  can  no  longer  doubt  that  death  is  coming  near,  deep 
bitterness  falls  on  the  soul."  "  I  have  faced  the  question 
from  all  sides  in  the  last  few  days;  I  turn  the  one  idea  over 
in  my  mind;  I  know  that  I  am  going  to  die,  but  I  cannot 
persuade  myself  that  I  am  going  to  die.  It  is  not  the 
1  Revue  de  metaphysique  et  de  morale,  March,  1904. 


philosopher  in  me  that  protests.  The  philosopher  does  not 
fear  death ;  it  is  the  old  man.  The  old  man  has  not  the 
courage  to  submit,  and  yet  I  have  to  submit  to  the  in- 

I  know  a  lady,  a  hundred  and  two  years  old,  who  is  so 
oppressed  by  the  idea  of  death,  that  those  about  her  have  to 
conceal  from  her  the  death  of  any  of  her  acquaintances. 
Mde.  Robineau,  however,  when  between  one  hundred  and 
four  and  one  hundred  and  five  years  old,  became  quite  in- 
different to  the  close  approach  of  her  own 'death.  She  often 
expressed  a  wish  for  it,  thinking  herself  useless  in  the 

M.  Yves  Delage1  in  an  analysis  of  my  "Nature  of 
Man "  doubted  the  existence  of  an  instinct  for  death. 
"  Animals,"  said  he,  "  cannot  have  the  instinct  for  death, 
because  they  do  not  know  of  death.  In  their  case,  we  must 
consider  that  what  happens  is  an  apathy  tending  to  the 
abolition  of  the  sense  of  self-preservation.  In  man,  the 
knowledge  of  death  implies  that  the  indifference  to  its 
approach  cannot  be  an  instinct."  "There  may  be  de- 
veloped, at  the  end  of  life,  a  special  state  of  mind  which 
accepts  death  with  indifference  or  with  pleasure,  but  such 
a  state  cannot  be  designated  as  an  instinct."  M.  Delage, 
however,  does  not  suggest  what  the  state  of  mind  in  ques- 
tion is  to  be  called.  As  the  aunt  of  Brillat-Savarin  com- 
pared her  sensations  just  before  death  with  the  desire  to 
sleep,  and  as  this  desire  is  an  instinctive  manifestation,  I 
think  that  the  cheerful  acquiescence  in  death,  exhibited  by 
extremely  old  people,  is  also  a  kind  of  instinct.  However, 
the  important  matter  is  that  the  sentiment  exists,  and  not 
what  we  are  to  call  it.  M.  Delage  is  far  from  denying  its 

1  Annfo  biologique,  vol.  vii,  p.  595. 


Dr.  Cancalon,1  another  of  my  critics,  cannot  admit  the 
existence  of  an  instinct  of  death,  "because  of  the  theory 
of  evolution.  Of  what  good  would  it  have  been,  as  M. 
Metchnikoff  tells  us  that  natural  death  is  very  rare;  how 
could  it  have  been  transmitted,  as  it  comes  into  existence 
long  after  the  age  of  reproduction,  and  how  could  it  have 
aided  the  survival  of  the  species?  If  its  existence  were 
proved  as  the  result  of  biological  evolution,  it  would  be  a 
contradiction  of  adaptation  and  an  argument  in  favour  of 
final  causes."  I  .cannot  agree  in  any  way  with  these 
opinions.  In  the  first  place,  it  is  well  known  that  men  and 
animals  have  many  harmful  instincts  that  do  not  tend  to 
the  survival  of  the  species.  I  need  recall  only  the  dis- 
harmonic  instincts  which  I  described  in  the  "  Nature  of 
Man,"  such  as  the  anomalies  of  the  sexual  instinct,  the 
instinct  which  drives  parents  to  devour  their  young  or 
which  attracts  insects  to  flames.  The  instinct  of  natural 
death  is  far  from  being  harmful,  and  may  even  have  many 
advantages.  If  men  were  convinced  that  the  end  of  life 
were  natural  death  accompanied  by  a  special  instinct  like 
that  of  the  need  for  sleep,  one  of  the  greatest  sources  of 
pessimism  would  disappear.  Now  pessimism  is  the  cause 
of  the  voluntary  death  of  a  certain  number  of  people  and  of 
many  others  refraining  from  reproduction.  The  instinct 
of  natural  death  would  contribute  to'  the  maintenance  of 
the  life  of  the  individual  and  of  the  species.  On  the  other 
hand,  there  is  no  difficulty  in  admitting  the  existence  of 
instincts  hostile  to  the  preservation  of  the  species,  espe- 
cially in  the  case  of  man,  in  whom  individualism  has 
reached  its  highest  development.  As  man  is  the  only 
animal  with  a  definite  notion  of  death,  there  is  nothing 
extraordinary  if  it  is  in  man  that  the  instinctive  wish  for 
1  Revue  occidentals,  July  ist,  1904,  vol.  xxx,  p.  87. 


death  develops.  M.  Cancalon  denies  the  possibility  that 
death  can  be  pleasant,  as  it  is  the  arrest  of  the  physio- 
logical functions ;  but  as  sleep  and  syncope  are  often  pre- 
ceded by  very  pleasant  sensations,  why  may  not  this  also 
happen  in  natural  death  ?  Several  facts  prove  it  beyond 
dispute.  It  is  even  probable  that  the  approach  of  natural 
death  is  one  of  the  most  pleasant  sensations  that  can  exist. 

It  is  indubitable  that  in  a  large  number  of  cases  of  death, 
the  cessation  of  life  is  associated  with  very  painful  sensa- 
tions. One  has  only  to  see  the  horror  shown  in  the  faces 
of.  many  dying  people  to  be  convinced  of  this,  but  there 
are  diseases  and  serious  accidents  in  which  the  approach 
of  death  does  not  arouse  sorrowful  sensations.  I  myself, 
in  a  crisis  of  intermittent  fever,  in  which  the  temperature 
descended  in  a  very  short  time  from  about  106°  Fahr.  to 
below  normal,  experienced  a  feeling  of  extraordinary 
weakness,  certainly  like  that  at  the  approach  of  death.  This 
sensation  was  much  more  pleasant  than  painful.  In  two 
cases  of  serious  morphia  poisoning,  my  sensations  were 
more  agreeable ;  I  felt  a  pleasant  weakness,  associated  with 
a  sensation  of  lightness  of  the  body,  as  if  I  were  floating 
in  the  air. 

Those  who  have  noted  tjie  sensations  of  persons  rescued 
from  death  have  related  similar  facts.  Prof.  Heim,  of 
Zurich,  has  described  a  fall  in  the  mountains  which  nearly 
killed  him,  as  well  as  several  similar  accidents  to  Alpine 
tourists.  In  all  these  cases  he  states  that  there  was  a  sensa- 
tion of  pleasure.1  Dr.  Sollier  has  told  of  a  young  woman 
addicted  to  morphia,  who  had  been  convinced  that  she  was 
at  the  point  of  death.  On  recovering  from  a  most  serious 
attack  of  syncope,  from  which  she  was  restored  only  by 
giving  another  dose  of  morphia,  she  cried:  "I  seem  to 

1  Egger,  " Le  mot  des mourants"  Revue  philosophique,  1896,  i,  p.  27. 


come  from  far  away;  how  happy  I  was!  "  Another  of 
Dr.  Sollier's  patients,  a  lady  who  had  an  attack  of  peri- 
tonitis from  which  she  expected  to  die,  felt  herself  "suf- 
fused with  a  feeling  of  well-being,  or  rather  the  absence  of 
all  pain."  In  a  third  case  of  Dr.  Sollier,  a  young  woman 
suffering  from  puerperal  fever,  feeling  herself  at  the  point 
of  death,  had  a  similar  sensation  "of  physical  well-being 
and  of  detachment  from  everything."  1 

As  a  sensation  of  happiness  occurs  even  in  cases  of  patho- 
logical death,  it  is  much  more  likely  to  occur  in  natural 
death.  If  natural  death  be  preceded  by  the  loss  of  the 
instinct  of  life  and  by  the  acquisition  of  a  new  instinct,  it 
would  be  the  best  possible  end  compatible  with  the  real 
organisation  of  human  nature. 

I  do  not  pretend  to  give  the  reader  a  finished  study  on 
natural  death.  This  chapter  of  Thanatology,  the  science 
of  death,  only  opens  the  subject;  but  it  is  already  ap- 
parent that  study  of  the  circumstances  of  natural  death  in 
plants,  in  the  animal  world,  and  in  human  beings,  may 
give  facts  of  the  highest  interest  to  science  and  humanity.- 

1  Ibid.)  pp.  303-307  ;  v.  also  Bulletin  de  PInstitut  gtntral  phycholog., 
1903,  p.  29. 




Complaints  of  the  shortness  of  our  life — Theory  of  "  medi- 
cal selection  "  as  a  cause  of  degeneration  of  the  race — 
Utility  of  prolonging  human  life 

ALTHOUGH  the  duration  of  the  life  of  man  is  one  of  the 
longest  amongst  mammals,  men  find  it  too  short.  From 
the  remotest  times  the  shortness  of  life  has  been  complained 
of,  and  there  have  been  many  attempts  to  prolong  it.  Man 
has  not  been  satisfied  with  a  duration  of  life  notably  greater 
than  that  of  his  nearest  relatives,  and  has  wished  to  live 
at  least  as  long  as  reptiles. 

In  antiquity,  Hippocrates  and  Aristotle  thought  that 
human  life  was  too  short,  and  Theophrastus,  although  he 
died  at  an  advanced  age  (he  lived  probably  seventy-five 
years)  lamented  when  he  was  dying  "  that  nature  had  given 
to  deer  and  to  crows  a  life  so  long  and  so  useless,  and  to 
man  only  one  that  was  often  very  short."  1 

Seneca  (Debrevitatevitce)  and  later,  in  the  i8th  century, 
Haller,  strove  in  vain  against  such  complaints,  which  have 
lasted  until  our  own  days.  Whilst  animals  have  no  more 

1  Cicero,  Tusculanes,  chap,  xxviii. 


than  an  instinctive  fear  of  danger,  and  cling  to  life  without 
knowing  what  death  is,  men  have  acquired  an  exact  idea  of 
death,  and  their  knowledge  increases  their  desire  to  live. 

Ought  we  to  listen  to  the  cry  of  humanity  that  life  is  too 
short  and  that  it  would  be  well  to  prolong  it  ?  Would  it 
really  be  for  the  good  of  the  human  race  to  extend  the  dura- 
tion of  the  life  of  man  beyond  its  present  limits  ?  Already 
it  is  complained  that  the  burden  of  supporting  old  people  is 
too  heavy,  and  statesmen  are  perturbed  by  the  enormous 
expense  which  will  be  entailed  by  State  support  of  the 
aged.  In  France,  in  a  population  of  about  38  millions, 
there  are  two  millions  (1,912, 153)  who  have  reached  the  age 
of  70,  that  is  to  say,  about  five  per  cent,  of  the  total.  The 
support  of  these  old  people  absorbs  a  sum  of  nearly 
^6,000,000  per  annum.1  However  generous  may  be  the 
views  of  the  members  of  the  French  Parliament,  many  of 
them  hesitate  at  the  idea  of  so  great  a  burden.  Without 
doubt,  men  say,  the  cost  of  maintaining  the  aged  will  be- 
come still  heavier  if  the  duration  of  life  is  to  be  prolonged. 
If  old  people  are  to  live  longer,  the  resources  of  the  young 
will  be  reduced. 

If  the  question  were  merely  one  of  prolonging  the  life  of 
old  people  without  modifying  old  age  itself,  such  considera- 
tions would  be  justified.  It  must  be  understood,  however, 
that  the  prolongation  of  life  would  be  associated  with  the 
preservation  of  intelligence  and  of  the  power  to  work.  In 
the  earlier  parts  of  this  book  I  have  given  many  examples 
which  show  the  possibility  of  useful  work  being  done  by 
persons  of  advanced  years.  When  we  have  reduced  or 
abolished  such  causes  of  precocious  senility  as  intemperance 
and  disease,  it  will  no  longer  be  necessary  to  give  pensions 

1  Rapport  de  M.  Bienvenu-Martin  k  la  Chambre  des  deputes,  Paris, 


at  the  age  of  sixty  or  seventy  years.  The  cost  of  supporting 
the  old,  instead  of  increasing,  will  diminish  progressively. 

If  attainment  of  the  normal  duration  of  life,  which  is 
much  greater  than  the  average  life  to-day,  were  to  over- 
populate  the  earth,  a  very  remote  possibility,  this  could  be 
remedied  by  lowering  the  birth-rate.  Even  at  the  present 
time,  while  the  earth  is  far  from  being  too  quickly  peopled, 
artificial  limitation  of  the  birth-rate  takes  place  perhaps  to 
an  unnecessary  extent. 

It  has  long  been  a  charge  against  medicine  and  hygiene 
that  they  tend  to  weaken  the  human  race.  By  scientific 
means  unhealthy  people,  or  those  with  inherited  blemishes, 
have  been  preserved  so  that  they  can  give  birth  to  weak 
offspring.  If  natural  selection  were  allowed  free  play,  such 
individuals  would  perish  and  make  room  for  others,  stronger 
and  better  able  to  live.  Haeckel  has  given  the  name 
"  medical  selection  "  to  this  process  under  which  humanity 
degenerates  because  of  the  influence  of  medical  science. 

It  is  clear  that  a  valuable  existence  of  great  service 
to  humanity  is  compatible  with  a  feeble  constitution  and 
precarious  health.  Amongst  tuberculous  people,  those 
with  inherited  or  acquired  syphilis,  and  those  with  a  con- 
stitution unbalanced  in  other  ways,  that  is  to  say,  amongst 
so-called  degenerates,  there  have  been  individuals  who  have 
had  a  large  share  in  the  advance  of  the  human  race.  I  need 
only  instance  the  names  of  Fresnel,  Leopardi,  Weber, 
Schumann  and  Chopin.  It  does  not  follow  that  we  ought 
to  cherish  diseases  and  leave  to  natural  selection  the  duty  of 
preserving  the  individuals  which  can  resist  them.  On  the 
other  hand,  it  is  indispensable  to  try  to  blot  out  the  diseases 
themselves,  and,  in  particular,  the  evils  of  old  age,  by  the 
methods  of  hygiene  and  therapeutics.  The  theory  of  medi- 
cal selection  must  be  given  up  as  contrary  to  the  good  of  the 


human  race.  We  must  use  all  our  endeavours  to  allow  men 
to  complete  their  normal  course  of  life,  and  to  make  it  pos- 
sible for  old  men  to  play  their  parts  as  advisers  and  judges, 
endowed  with  their  long  experience  of  life. 

To  the  question  propounded  at  the  beginning  of  this  sec- 
tion of  my  book,  I  can  make  only  one  answer :  Yes,  it  is 
useful  to  prolong  human  life. 



Ancient  methods  of  prolonging  human  life — Gerokomy — 
The  "  immortality  draught "  of  the  Taoists — Brown- 
Se"quard's  method — The  spermine  of  Poehl — Dr.  Weber's 
precepts — Increased  duration  of  life  in  historical  times — 
Hygienic  maxims — Decrease  in  cutaneous  cancer 

MEN  of  all  times  have  attempted  all  manner  of  devices  to 
bring  about  an  increase  of  years,  although  they  have  not 
considered  the  problem  in  its  general  bearing. 

In  Biblical  times  it  was  believed  that  contact  with  young 
girls  would  rejuvenate  and  prolong  the  life  of  feeble  old 
men.  In  the  first  Book  of  Kings  it  is  related  as  follows  :  — 

"  Now  King  David  was  old  and  stricken  in  years;  and 
they  covered  him  with  clothes,  but  he  gat  no  heat. 

"Wherefore  his  servants  said  unto  him,  Let  there  be 
sought  for  my  Lord  the  king  a  young  virgin ;  let  her  stand 
before  the  king  and  let  her  cherish  him,  and  let  her  lie  in 
thy  bosom,  that  my  lord  the  king  may  get  heat "  (Kings  I., 
chap.  i.). 

This  device,  afterwards  called  gerokomy,  was  employed 
by  the  Greeks  and  Romans,  and  has  had  followers  in 
modern  times.  Boerhave,  the  famous  Dutch  physician 
(1668 — 1738),  "recommended  an  old  burgomaster  of 
Amsterdam  to  lie  between  two  young  girls,  assuring  him 
that  he  would  thus  recover  strength  and  spirits."  After 
quoting  this,  Hufeland,  the  well-known  author  of  "  Macro- 


biotique  "  in  the  eighteenth  century,  made  the  following 
reflection  : — "  If  it  be  remembered  how  the  exhalations 
from  newly  opened  animals  stimulate  paralysed  limbs,  and 
how  the  application  of  living  animals  soothes  a  violent  pain, 
we  cannot  refuse  our  approval  to  the  method."1 

Cohausen,  a  doctor  of  the  eighteenth  century,  published  a 
treatise  on  a  Roman,  Hermippus,  who  had  died  aged  a 
hundred  and  fifteen  years.  He  had  been  a  master  in  a 
school  for  young  girls,  and  his  life,  passed  in  their  midst, 
was  greatly  prolonged.  "  Accordingly,"  commented 
Hufeland  (p.  6),  "  he  gives  the  excellent  advice  to  breathe 
the  air  of  young  girls  night  and  morning,  and  gives  his 
assurance  that  by  so  doing  the  vital  forces  will  be 
strengthened  and  preserved,  as  adepts  know  well  that  the 
breath  of  young  girls  contains  the  vital  principle  in  all  its 

In  the  Eastern  half  of  the  world  equal  ingenuity  was  exer- 
cised in  the  attempt  to  rejuvenate  the  body  and  renew  the 
forces  of  man.  The  successors  of  Lao-Ts£  searched  for  a 
beverage  that  would  confer  immortality  and  have  recounted 
extraordinary  matters  concerning  it. 

The  Emperor  of  China,  Chi-Hoang-Ti  (221 — 209  B.C.), 
displayed  extreme  friendliness  to  the  Taoists,  believing  that 
these  had  the  secret  of  long  life  and  immortality.  In  his 
reign,  Su-Chi,  a  Taoist  magician,  persuaded  him  that  east- 
wards of  China  there  lay  fortunate  islands  inhabited  by 
genii  whose  pleasure  it  was  to  give  their  guests  to  drink  of 
a  beverage  conferring  immortality.  Chi-Hoang-Ti  was  so 
delighted  with  the  news  that  he  equipped  an  expedition  to 
discover  the  islands.2 

1  L'Art  de  prolonger  la  vie  humaine  (French  translation),  Lausanne, 
1809,  p.  5. 
1  A.  ReVille,  Histoire  des  religions,  vol.  iii,  Paris,  1889,^428. 


Later  on,  in  the  dynasty  of  the  Tchengs  (618 — 907),  when 
Taoism  had  again  become  a  religion  in  favour  at  court, 
efforts  were  made  to  obtain  imperial  patronage  for  the 
draught  of  immortality,  and  magicians  were  in  high  favour. 
The  Taoist  writers  called  this  drink  Tan  or  Kin-Tan,  the 
"golden  elixir."  According  to  Mayers,  the  chief  ingredi- 
ents of  this  marvellous  compound  were  "  cinnabar,  the  red 
sulphate  of  mercury,  and  a  red  salt  of  arsenic,  potassium 
and  mother-of-pearl.  The  preparation  of  it  required  nine 
months,  and  it  passed  through  nine  changes.  One  who 
had  drunk  of  it  was  changed  to  a  crane,  and  in  this  form 
could  ascend  to  the  dwellings  of  the  genii,  there  to  abide 
with  them."1 

The  Taoists  represent  their  saints,  in  the  shade  of  willows, 
seeking  the  elixir  of  life,  and  in  Chinese  Buddhist  temples 
there  are  placed  votive  cakes  shaped  like  the  tortoise,  a 
sacred  animal  and  the  symbol  of  long  life.  Worshippers 
let  stones  of  divination  fall  on  these  cakes  and  so  ascertained 
if  their  lives  were  to  be  prolonged,  promising  for  each  sub- 
sequent year  as  many  cakes  as  the  divinity  might  demand. 

The  mysticism  of  the  East  reached  Europe  in  the  Middle 
Ages,  and  then,  and  even  in  modern  times,  drugs  were  used 
to  prolong  life.  Cagliostro,  the  celebrated  quack  of  the 
eighteenth  century,  boasted  that  he  had  discovered  an  elixir 
of  life  by  the  use  of  which  he  had  survived  for  many 
thousand  years. 

There  still  exists,  in  some  modern  pharmacopoeias,  an 
"  elixir  ad  longam  vitam  "  compounded  of  aloes  and  other 
purgatives.  Analogous  preparations  are  known,  such 
as  the  "  vital  essence  of  Augsburg  "  which  is  a  mixture  of 
purgatives  and  resins. 

Serious  physicians  have  rejected  such  preparations  of  the 
1  A.  R^ville,  loc.  cit.,  p.  455. 


quacks.  They  have  abandoned  the  search  for  a  specific, 
and,  in  their  efforts  to  prolong  human  life,  have  relied  on 
common  rules  of  hygiene,  such  as  cleanliness,  exercise, 
fresh  air,  and  general  sobriety.  In  our  own  days,  Brown- 
Sequard  is  an  isolated  instance  of  a  seeker  for  a  specific 
against  senescence.  This  distinguished  physiologist,  set- 
ting out  from  the  view  that  the  weakness  of  old  men  is  due 
partly  to  diminution  of  the  secretions  of  the  testes,  hoped 
to  find  a  remedy  in  the  employment  of  subcutaneous  injec- 
tions of  emulsions  of  the  testes  of  animals  (dogs  and  guinea- 
pigs).  Brown-S^quard,1  then  aged  72  years,  gave  himself 
several  such  injections,  and  declared  that  he  found  himself 
reinforced  and  rejuvenated.  Since  then,  numbers  of  per- 
sons have  undergone  the  treatment  which  for  a  time  was  in 
vogue.  The  observations  of  physicians,  made  on  old  men 
and  sick  persons,  have  not  justified  the  hopes  which  were 
entertained  of  the  mode  of  treatment.  Furbringer,2  in  par- 
ticular, working  in  Germany,  has  discredited  the  injections 
of  Brown-S^quard.  However,  instead  of  following  exactly 
the  original  prescription,  Furbringer  employed  a  testicular 
emulsion  which  had  been  previously  raised  to  the  boiling- 
point.  Brown-Se"quard's  method  has  not  resisted  scientific 
investigation,  and  although  it  is  still  occasionally  employed 
in  France,  it  has  been  given  up  in  many  countries. 

Brown-Se'quard  laid  stress  on  the  efficacy  of  emulsions  of 
testis  as  opposed  to  chemical  substances  prepared  from  the 
gland.  Other  scientific  men,  on  the  other  hand,  have 
attached  value  to  such  substances  and  in  particular  to  an 
organic  alkali  the  salt  of  which  is  known  as  spermine. 
That  salt,  made  by  Poehl  of  St.  Petersburg,  has  been 
largely  used.  Several  observers  declare  that  its  employ- 

1  Comptes  rendus  de  la  Societt  de  Biologie,  1899,  p.  415. 

2  Deutsche  medicin.   Wochenschrift^  1891,  p.  1027. 


ment,  injected  in  solution  or  even  absorbed  directly  as  a 
powder,  has  been  followed  by  a  strengthening  of  bodily 
power  enfeebled  by  age  or  labour. 

As  I  have  no  personal  experience  of  spermine,  I  shall 
quote  from  Professor  Poehl 1  some  indications  of  its  effi- 
cacy. Several  physicians  (Drs.  Maximovitch,  Bukojemsky, 
Krieger  and  Postoeff)  have  given  injections  of  spermine 
to  enfeebled  old  men  who  had  lost  appetite  and  sleep,  and 
have  noted  improvement  lasting  for  months.  From  the 
instances  given,  I  have  selected  that  of  an  old  lady  of 
ninety-five  years,  afflicted  with  severe  sclerosis  of  the  arte- 
ries, with  no  appetite,  a  bad  digestion  and  constipation. 
This  patient  had  complained  for  several  years  of  sacral 
pains,  and  moreover  was  nearly  quite  deaf  and  suffered  from 
periodic  attacks  of  malarial  fever.  The  injections  of  sper- 
mine, given  for  a  period  of  fifteen  months,  restored  the  old 
lady  to  such  an  extent  that  she  recovered  her  power  of 
hearing  and  felt  the  sacral  pains  only  slightly  and  after  a 
long  walk.  Her  general  condition  was  highly  satisfactory. 

Spermine,  as  it  has  been  used  medically,  is  prepared  not 
only  from  the  testes  of  animals  but  from  the  prostate  gland, 
ovary,  pancreas,  thyroid  gland  and  spleen.  The  substance 
is  not  specially  associated  with  spermatozoa  but  has  a  wide 
distribution  in  the  mammalian  body. 

In  the  medical  treatment  of  the  evils  of  old  age,  testicular 
emulsions  or  spermine  have  not  been  so  favoured  as  general 
hygienic  measures.  Dr.  Weber,2  a  London  medical  man, 
has  recently  summarised  more  general  measures,  and  his 
evidence  is  the  more  important  as  he  has  been  able  to  test 

1  Die  physiologisch-chemisch.    Grundlagen  d.  Spermintheorie,  Berlin, 

2  British  Medical  Journal,  1904  ;  Deutsche  Mediz.  Wochenschr.^  1904, 
Nos.  1 8-2 1. 


the  efficacy  of  his  precepts  in  his  own  case.  Dr.  Weber  is 
83  years  old,  and  in  his  practice  has  cared  for  many  other 
old  men. 

The  following  are  the  precepts  which  Dr.  Weber  formu- 
lated :  All  the  organs  must  be  preserved  in  a  condition 
of  vigour.  It  is  necessary  to  recognise  and  subdue  any 
morbid  tendencies  whether  these  be  hereditary  or  have  been 
acquired  during  life.  It  is  necessary  to  be  moderate  in 
food  and  drink,  and  in  all  other  physical  pleasures.  The 
air  should  be  pure  in  the  dwelling  and  in  the  vicinity. 
It  is  necessary  to  take  exercise  daily,  whatever  be  the 
weather.  In  many  cases  the  respiratory  movements  must 
be  specially  exercised,  and  exercise  on  level  ground  and 
up-hill  should  be  taken.  The  persons  should  go  to  bed 
early  and  rise  early,  and  not  sleep  for  more  than  six  or  seven 
hours.  A  bath  should  be  taken  daily  and  the  skin  should 
be  well  rubbed,  the  water  used  being  hot  or  cold,  accord- 
ing to  taste.  Sometimes  it  is  advantageous  to  use  hot 
and  cold  water.  Regular  work  and  mental  occupation  are 
indispensable.  It  is  useful  to  stimulate  the  enjoyment  of 
life  so  that  the  mind  may  be  tranquil  and  full  of  hope.  On 
the  other  hand,  the  passions  must  be  controlled  and  the 
nervous  sensations  of  grief  avoided.  Finally,  there  must 
be  a  resolute  intention  to  preserve  the  health,  to  avoid 
alcohol  and  other  stimulants  as  well  as  narcotics  and 
soothing  drugs. 

By  following  his  own  precepts,  Dr.  Weber  has  enjoyed  a 
vigorous  and  happy  old  age.  A  Mde.  Nausenne,  who  died 
on  March  I2th,  1756,  at  the  age  of  125  years,  in  the  Dinay 
Infirmary  (C6tes-du-Nord)  explained  the  secret  of  her  still 
greater  longevity  as  follows  :  "  Extreme  sobriety,  no  worry, 
body  and  mind  quite  calm  "  (Chemin,  op.  cit.,  p.  101). 

Hygienic  measures  have  been  the  most  successful  in 
prolonging  life  and  in  lessening  the  ills  of  old  age. 


Although  until  quite  recently  hygiene  has  rested  upon  a 
very  small  number  of  scientifically  established  facts,  and 
although  its  precepts  have  not  been  followed  rigidly,  none 
the  less  it  has  already  succeeded  in  increasing  the  dura- 
tion of  human  life.  This  becomes  evident  if  we  compare 
the  mortality  tables  of  the  present  day  with  those  of  the 

There  is  reason  to  state  definitely  that  the  mortality  in 
civilised  countries  has  decreased  on  the  whole  in  the  last 
one  or  two  centuries.  I  have  taken  some  facts  regarding 
this  from  the  valuable  monograph  of  M.  Westergaard.1 
That  author  came  to  the  conclusion  that  the  mortality  rate 
in  the  igth  century  in  civilised  countries  was  "much 
lower  than  in  most  earlier  centuries."  This  diminution 
has  been  chiefly  in  infantile  mortality.  According  to 
Mallet,  the  mortality  rate  of  infants  in  the  first  year  of 
their  life  was,  in  Geneva,  26  per  cent,  in  the  i6th  century, 
and  fell  gradually  to  16^  per  cent,  at  the  beginning  of  the 
igth  century.  A  similar  change  has  been  reported  from 
Berlin,  Holland,  Denmark  and  other  places.  However, 
it  is  not  only  very  young  infants  that  have  shown  a  diminu- 
tion in  the  death-rate.  The  life  of  old  people  has  been 
prolonged  to  an  extent  equally  remarkable.  The  follow- 
ing are  some  of  the  facts  which  support  this  statement. 
Whilst  the  old  Protestant  clergymen  of  Denmark  at  ages 
varying  from  74^  to  8g£  years  had  a  mortality  rate  of  22 
per  cent,  in  the  second  half  of  the  i8th  century,  the  rate 
had  sunk  to  16*4  per  cent,  by  the  middle  of  the  igth 
century.  This  is  not  an  isolated  fact.  The  old  clergymen 
of  England  (65  to  95  years)  have  also  come  to  live  longer, 
because  in  the  i8th  century  the  mortality  rate  was  11*5 
percent,  and  in  the  igth  century  (1800-1860)  only  io'8  per 
cent.  There  has  been  a  similar  decrease  in  the  mortality 

1  Die  Lehre  -von  d.  Mortalitaet  u.  Mcrbilitaet,  2nd  edition,  Jena,  1901. 


rate  in  the  members  of  both  sexes  of  the  Royal  Houses 
of  Europe  (Westergaard,  p.  284). 

From  1841  to  1850,  in  England  and  Wales  i62'8i  in- 
dividuals out  of  every  thousand  of  both  sexes  died  annually, 
but  the  corresponding  figure  for  the  period  1881  to  1890 
was  decreased  to  153 '67  per  thousand. 

Westergaard  (p.  296)  has  displayed  in  a  most  useful 
table  the  mortality  in  the  chief  countries  of  Europe  and 
in  the  State  of  Massachusetts,  in  two  periods  of  time.  In 
the  case  of  old  persons  from  70  to  75  years,  there  has 
been  a  constant  decrease  in  the  death-rate,  without  any 
exceptions.  The  exact  statistics  collected  by  Pension 
Bureaus  and  Life  Assurance  Companies  exhibit  the  same 
general  tendency. 

It  cannot  be  disputed  then  that  there  has  been  a  general 
increase  in  the  duration  of  life,  and  that  old  people  live 
longer  at  the  present  time  than  in  former  ages.  This 
fact,  however,  cannot  be  taken  absolutely,  and  it  is  still 
possible  that  in  particular  cases  there  may  have  been  more 
centenarians  hitherto  than  at  present. 

The  prolongation  of  life  which  has  come  to  pass  in 
recent  centuries  must  certainly  be  attributed  to  the  advance 
of  hygiene.  The  general  measures  for  the  preservation 
of  health,  although  they  were  not  specially  directed  to  old 
people,  have  had  an  effect  of  increasing  their  longevity. 
As  in  the  i8th  century  and  for  the  greater  part  of  the 
1 9th,  the  science  of  hygiene  was  in  a  very  rudimentary 
condition,  we  may  well  believe  that  improvement  in  clean- 
liness and  in  the  general  conditions  have  contributed  largely 
to  the  prolongation  of  life.  It  is  now  a  long  time  since 
Liebig  said  that  the  amount  of  soap  used  could  be  taken 
as  a  measure  of  the  degree  of  civilisation  of  a  people.  As  a 
matter  of  fact,  cleanliness  of  the  body  brought  about 
in  the  most  simple  way,  by  washing  with  soap,  has  had 


a  most  important  effect  in  lessening  disease  and  mor- 
tality from  disease.  In  this  connection,  the  fact  recently 
published  by  Prof.  Czerny,1  a  well-known  German 
surgeon,  has  a  special  interest.  Although  cancer,  the 
special  scourge  of  old  age,  has  increased  in  recent  times, 
one  form  of  the  disease,  cancer  of  the  skin,  has  diminished 
notably.  "  Cancers  of  the  skin,"  Prof.  Czerny  says,  "  are 
met  with  almost  exclusively  on  uncovered  regions  of  the 
body,  or  on  parts  accessible  to  the  hands.  They  develop 
especially  where  the  susceptibility  is  increased  by  ulcers 
or  scars  which  are  easily  soiled.  And  so  it  happens  that 
in  the  classes  where  care  is  taken  as  to  cleanliness  cancer 
of  the  skin  is  very  rare  and  certainly  much  more  rare 
than  it  used  to  be." 

M.  Westergaard  thinks  that  vaccination  against  small- 
pox has  been  of  considerable  importance  in  lowering  the 
death-rate  in  the  igth  century.  This,  however,  can  have 
had  little  effect  on  the  duration  of  life  in  old  people,  as 
deaths  due  to  small-pox  in  the  old  are  excessively  rare. 
For  instance,  in  the  second  half  of  the  i8th  century,  that 
is  to  say  before  the  introduction  of  Jenner's  method,  the 
mortality  from  small-pox  at  Berlin  was  9'8  per  cent,  of 
all  the  deaths,  but  of  these  only  o'6  per  cent,  were  cases 
of  persons  more  than  fifteen  years  old.  The  rest,  that  is  to 
say,  99*3  per  cent,  fell  on  children  under  that  age.  It 
may  be  supposed  that  most  of  the  old  people  at  that  time 
were  already  protected  by  previous  attacks  of  small-pox, 
contracted  when  they  were  young. 

If  hygiene  were  able  to  prolong  life  when  if  was  little 
developed,  as  was  the  case  until  recently,  we  may  well 
believe  that,  with  our  greater  knowledge  of  to-day,  a  much 
better  result  will  be  obtained. 

1  Medizinische  Klinik,  1905,  No.  22. 



Measures  against  infectious  diseases  as  aiding  in  the  pro- 
longation of  life — Prevention  of  syphilis — Attempts  to  prepare 
serums  which  could  strengthen  the  higher  elements  of  the 

ATTACKS  of  infectious  diseases  incurred  during  life  fre- 
quently shorten  its  duration  and  it  has  been  observed  that 
most  centenarians  have  enjoyed  good  health  throughout 
their  lives.  Syphilis  is  the  most  important  of  these  dis- 
eases. It  is  not  really  a  cause  of  death  itself,  but  it  pre- 
disposes the  organism  to  the  attacks  of  other  diseases, 
amongst  the  latter  being  some  particularly  fatal  to  old 
people,  such  as  diseases  of  the  heart  and  blood-vessels 
(angina  pectoris  and  aneurism  of  the  aorta)  and  some 
malignant  tumours,  especially  cancer  of  the  tongue  and 
of  the  mouth.  To  lengthen  human  life,  it  is  a  fundamental 
necessity  to  avoid  infection  by  syphilis.  To  reach  this 
result  everything  must  be  done  to  spread  medical  know- 
ledge about  such  diseases.  It  is  absolutely  necessary  to 
overcome  the  deeply  rooted  prejudice  in  favour  of  con- 
cealing everything  relating  to  sexual  matters.  Complete 
information  should  be  widely  spread  as  to  the  means  of 
protecting  humanity  against  this  awful  scourge.  It  has 
now  been  possible  to  apply  experimental  methods  to  the 

146         THE  PROLONGATION      F  LIFE 

investigation  of  this  disease,  and  science  has  obtained  a 
series  of  results  of  the  highest  practical  utility.  Prof. 
Neisser  of  Breslau,  one  of  the  most  distinguished  of  modern 
venereal  physicians,  has  summed  up  the  present  state  of 
knowledge  of  these  matters  in  the  following  lines.1  "  It 
is  our  duty  as  medical  men,"  he  says,  "to  recommend 
strongly  as  a  means  of  disinfection  in  all  possible  cases 
of  contagion  the  calomel  ointment  which  Metchnikoff  and 
Roux  have  advised."  It  is  to  be  hoped  that  future  genera- 
tions, by  following  this  advice,  will  see  an  enormous 
diminution  in  the  number  of  cases  of  syphilis. 

Syphilis,  however,  although  a  very  important  factor,  is 
not  alone  in  shortening  the  life  of  man.  A  very  large  num- 
ber of  persons  die  prematurely  although  they  have  not  con- 
tracted that  disease.  We  do  not  know  the  duration  of 
human  life  before  the  arrival  of  syphilis  in  Europe,  but 
there  is  no  reason  to  think  that  it  was  very  different  from 
what  it  is  to-day.  We  must,  therefore,  try  to  prevent  as 
many  infectious  diseases  as  possible,  and  recent  advances  in 
medicine  have  made  this  task  much  less  difficult.  Pneu- 
monia, it  is  true,  the  most  common  infectious  disease 
amongst  the  old,  cannot  yet  be  easily  avoided.  All  the  anti- 
pneumonic  serums  which  have  hitherto  been  prepared  have 
turned  out  to  have  little  efficacy ;  but  there  is  no  reason  to 
give  up  the  hope  that  this  problem  will  yet  be  solved. 

Diseases  of  the  heart,  which  are  common  in  extreme 
old  age,  are  particularly  difficult  to  avoid,  because  in  most 
cases  we  do  not  know  sufficiently  well  their  primary  causes. 
In  so  far  as  they  depend  upon  intemperance  or  infectious 
diseases  such  as  syphilis,  they  can  be  avoided  by  the  em- 
ployment of  suitable  measures. 

As  the  higher  elements  of  the  body  in  old  people  become 
1  Die  experimentelle  Syphilisforschung,  Berlin,  1906,  p.  82. 


weaker  and  are  devoured  by  the  macrophags,  it  seems 
probable  that  the  destruction  or  deterioration  of  these 
voracious  cells  would  tend  to  the  prolongation  of  life. 
However,  as  the  macrophags  are  indispensable  in  the 
struggle  against  the  microbes  of  infectious  diseases,  and 
particularly  of  chronic  disease,  such  as  tuberculosis,  it  is 
necessary  to  preserve  them.  We  must  turn  rather  to  the 
idea  of  a  remedy  which  could  strengthen  the  higher 
elements  and  make  them  a  less  ready  prey  to  the  macro- 

In  the  "  Nature  of  Man  "  (Chap.  III.)  in  discussing  the 
simian  origin  of  mankind,  I  touched  on  the  existence  of 
animal  serums  that  have  the  power  of  dissolving  the 
blood  corpuscles  of  other  species  of  animals.  There  is 
now,  in  biological  science,  a  new  chapter  upon  such 
serums,  which  have  been  called  cytotoxic  serums  because 
they  are  able  to  poison  the  cells  of  organs. 

The  blood  and  blood  serum  of  some  animals  act  as 
poisons  when  they  are  introduced  into  an  organism.  Eels 
and  snakes,  even  non-poisonous  snakes,  are  cases  in  point. 
A  small  quantity  of  the  blood  of  a  snake,  an  adder  for 
instance,  injected  into  a  mammal  (rabbit,  guinea-pig,  or 
mouse)  soon  brings  about  death.  The  blood  of  some 
mammals  is  poisonous  to  other  mammals,  although  in  a 
lesser  degree  than  that  of  snakes.  The  dog  is  specially 
notable  from  the  fact  that  its  blood  is  poisonous  to  other 
mammals,  whilst,  on  the  other  hand,  the  blood  and  blood 
serum  of  the  sheep,  goat,  and  horse  have  generally  little 
effect  on  other  animals  and  on  man.  It  is  for  this  reason 
that  these  animals,  and  particularly  the  horse,  are  used  in 
the  preparation  of  the  serums  employed  in  medicine. 

Now,  these  harmless  serums  become  poisonous  when 
they  have  been  taken  from  animals  which  have  been  first 

L    2 


treated  with  the  blood  or  the  organs  of  other  species  of 
animals.  For  instance,  the  blood  serum  of  a  sheep  which 
has  been  treated  with  the  blood  of  a  rabbit  becomes 
poisonous  because  it  has  acquired  the  power  of  dissolving 
the  red  blood  corpuscles  of  the  rabbit.  It  is  a  poison  in 
the  case  of  the  rabbit,  but  is  harmless  to  most  other 
animals.  The  injection  of  the  rabbit's  blood  into  the  sheep 
has  conferred  on  the  sheep  a  new  property  which  comes 
into  operation  only  with  regard  to  the  red  blood  corpuscles 
of  the  rabbit.  We  have  here  to  do  with  something  analo- 
gous to  what  has  been  observed  in  the  cases  of  serums 
used  to  arrest  infectious  disease.  When  the  bacilli  of 
diphtheria,  or  their  products,  have  been  injected  into 
horses,  there  is  produced  an  anti-diphtheric  serum,  capable 
of  curing  diphtheria,  but  powerless  against  tetanus  or 
plague.  After  M.  J.  M.  Bordet  of  the  Pasteur  Institute 
had  made  his  discovery  of  serums  that  had  acquired 
the  power  of  dissolving  the  red  blood  corpuscles  of  other 
animals,  the  attempt  was  made  to  prepare  similar  serums 
directed  against  all  the  other  elements  of  the  body,  such 
as  white  blood  corpuscles,  renal  and  nervous  cells.  In 
the  course  of  these  investigations  it  was  proved  to  be  neces- 
sary to  employ  a  certain  dose  of  the  serum  in  order  to 
obtain  the  poisonous  result.  If  smaller  quantities  of  the 
poisonous  dose  were  used,  the  reverse  effect  was  produced. 
Thus  a  serum,  strong  doses  of  which  dissolved  the  red 
blood  corpuscles  and  so  made  them  less  numerous  in  the 
blood,  increased  the  number  of  these  when  given  in  very 
small  doses. 

M.  Cantacuzene  was  the  first  to  establish  this  fact  in 
the  case  of  the  rabbit,  whilst  M.  Besredka  and  I  myself 
did  it  in  the  case  of  man.1     Since  then  M.  Belonovsky  of 
1  Annales  de  VInstitut  Pas/eitr,  1900,  pp.  369-413. 


Cronstadt  has  confirmed  the  result  on  anaemic  patients, 
treating  them  with  small  quantities  of  serum.  He  has 
been  able  to  produce  in  them  an  increase  in  the  number 
of  the  red  blood  corpuscles,  and  in  the  quantity  of  the  red 
colouring  matter  (haemoglobin)  in  the  blood.  Later  on 
M.  Andre1  devoted  much  attention  to  this  matter  at 
Lyons.  He  prepared  a  serum  by  injecting  human  blood 
into  animals  and  made  use  of  it  in  the  case  of  several 
persons  who  suffered  from  anaemia  from  different  causes. 
In  the  case  of  patients,  the  anasmic  condition  of  which  had 
hitherto  remained  stationary,  Dr.  Andre  found  a  sudden 
increase  in  the  number  of  red  corpuscles  after  injecting 
small  doses  of  the  serum.  M.  Besredka,  in  the  case  of 
laboratory  animals,  increased  the  number  of  white  cor- 
puscles by  injecting  them  with  a  small  quantity  of  a  serum, 
strong  doses  of  which  destroyed  these  cells. 

These  facts  are  only  a  special  case  of  the  general  rule 
that  small  doses  of  poisons  increase  the  activity  of  the 
elements  that  are  killed  by  large  doses.  In  order  to 
increase  the  activity  of  the  heart,  medical  men  give  success- 
fully small  doses  of  cardiac  poisons  such  as  digitalis. 
As  a  commercial  process,  the  activity  of  yeasts  is  increased 
by  submitting  them  to  weak  doses  of  substances  (fluoride 
of  sodium)  which,  given  in  larger  quantities,  would  kill 

My  general  conclusion  from  these  facts  is  that  it  is 
logical  to  lay  down  the  principle  that  the  higher  elements 
of  our  body  could  be  strengthened  by  subjecting  them  to 
the  action  of  small  doses  of  the  appropriate  cytotoxic 
serums.  There  is,  however,  much  difficulty  in  putting 
this  into  practice.  It  is  quite  easy  to  obtain  human  blood 
to  inject  into  animals  with  the  object  of  preparing  a  serum 
1  Les  serums  hemolytiques,  Lyon,  1903. 


which  can  increase  the  number  of  red  corpuscles.  On  the 
other  hand,  it  is  extremely  difficult  to  get  human  bodies 
sufficiently  fresh  to  use  them  for  a  practical  purpose. 
According  to  law,  post  mortem  examinations  can  be  made 
only  after  an  interval  of  time  in  course  of  which  the  tissues 
have  changed ;  besides,  the  organs  obtained  in  this  way  are 
frequently  affected  by  injuries  or  diseases  militating 
against  their  use.  Even  in  Paris,  with  its  three  million 
inhabitants,  it  is  extremely  rare  that  there  is  a  good  oppor- 
tunity for  the  preparation  of  human  cytotoxic  serums. 
In  two  or  three  years,  during  which  Dr.  Weinberg  has 
collected  the  organs  from  human  bodies  fairly  fresh,  he 
has  been  unable  to  obtain  sufficiently  active  serums. 

The  best  results  have  been  obtained  from  new-born 
infants  which  have  been  killed  by  some  accident  in  the 
process  of  child-birth,  as  in  them  the  organs  are  in  a 
normal  state.  However,  owing  to  the  advance  in  the 
practice  of  obstetrics,  such  accidents,  already  infrequent, 
are  becoming  extremely  rare.  In  such  conditions  we 
may  have  to  wait  long  before  getting  a  positive  result, 
unless  the  future  will  find  some  method  of  obtaining  the 
necessary  materials  for  this  difficult  and  interesting 

As  it  is  so  difficult  to  prepare  a  remedy  which  can 
strengthen  the  weakened  higher  elements  of  the  body,  it 
may  be  easier  to  find  a  means  of  preventing  the  weakening 
which  interferes  so  much  with  our  desire  to  live  long. 
As  the  products  of  microbes  are  the  most  active  agents  in 
deteriorating  our  tissues,  we  must  look  towards  them  for 
the  solution  of  the  problem. 



Uselessness  of  the  large  intestine  in  man — Case  of  a  woman 
whose  large  intestine  was  inactive  for  six  months — Another 
case  where  the  greater  part  of  the  large  intestine  was  com- 
pletely shut  off — Attempts  ti  disinfect  the  contents  of  the 
large  intestine — Prolonged  mastication  as  a  means  of 
preventing  intestinal  putrefaction 

THE  general  measures  of  hygiene  directed  against  infec- 
tious diseases  play  a  part  in  prolonging  the  lives  of  old 
people,  but,  in  addition  to  the  microbes  which  invade  the 
body  from  outside,  there  is  a  rich  source  of  harm  in  the 
microbes  which  inhabit  the  body.  The  most  important 
of  these  belong  to  the  intestinal  flora,  which  is  abundant 
and  varied. 

The  intestinal  microbes  are  most  numerous  in  the  large 
intestine.  This  organ,  which  is  useful  to  mammals  the 
food  of  which  consists  of  rough  bulky  vegetable  matter, 
and  which  require  a  large  reservoir  for  the  waste  of  the 
process  of  digestion,  is  certainly  useless  in  the  case  of 
man.1  In  the  "  Nature  of  Man  "  I  have  dealt  with  this 

1  According  to  a  recent  publication  of  M.  Ellenberger  (Archiv.  /. 
Anatomie  u.  Physiologic,  Physiologische  Abtheilung,  1906,  p.  139),  the 
caeca  of  the  horse,  pig  and  rabbit,  play  an  active  part  in  the  digestion 
of  vegetable  matter,  which  is  rich  in  cellulose.  At  the  end  of  his 
treatise,  Ellenberger  insist  that  the  vermiform  appendix  of  the  caecum 
is  not  a  rudimentary  organ.  The  reason  why  the  appendix  can  be 


question  at  length,  as  it  was  an  important  example  of 
what  I  regard  as  the  disharmonies  of  the  human  constitu- 
tion. A  case  upon  which  I  have  always  laid  great  stress 
is  that  of  a  woman  who  lived  for  thirty-seven  years, 
although  her  large  intestine  was  atrophied  and  inactive,  as 
this  seems  to  be  a  remarkable  proof  of  the  uselessness  of 
the  organ  in  the  human  body.  The  small  size  or  complete 
absence  of  the  large  intestine  in  many  vertebrates  confirms 
my  conclusion.  None  the  less,  some  of  my  critics  think 
that  my  argument  is  incomplete.  To  strengthen  it,  I  may 
call  their  attention  to  a  medical  observation  which  is  as 
valuable  as  if  it  had  been  an  experiment.  It  relates  to  a 
woman,  sixty-two  years  old,  a  patient  of  Prof.  Kocher  at 
Berne.  She  had  been  suffering  from  a  strangulated  hernia 
associated  with  gangrene  of  part  of  the  intestine,  and  had 
to  be  operated  upon  suddenly , 

The  gangrenous  portion  of  the  ileum  having  been  re- 
moved, the  healthy  part  was  implanted  in  the  skin  so  as 
to  form  an  artificial  aperture  through  which  waste  matter 
from  the  food  passed  to  the  exterior  without  traversing  the 
large  intestine.  Although  the  patient  was  old  and  seriously 
ill,  the  operation,  performed  by  M.  Tavel,  was  quite  suc- 
cessful. Six  months  later,  in  a  new  operation,  the  small 
intestine  was  rejoined  to  the  large  intestine  so  that  the 
faeces  were  again  able  to  pass  to  the  exterior  by  the  natural 
channel.  In  this  case,  then,  the  large  intestine  was  thrown 
out  of  use  for  half  a  year,  not  only  without  injury  to  the 
general  health,  but  with  the  result  that  the  patient  was  corn- 
removed  in  the  case  of  man  without  disturbance  to  the  functions  of 
the  body,  is  that  this  work  can  be  performed  by  the  Peyer's  patches  of  the 
intestine.  The  existence  of  the  appendix  is  not  necessary  to  the  normal 
processes  of  the  body,  and  is  a  real  danger  to  health  and  sometimes 
to  life.  Comparative  study  of  the  caeca  in  birds  shows  that  these  organs 
are  in  process  of  degeneration. 


pletely  cured  and  gained  in  weight.  MM.  Macfadyen, 
Nencki,  and  Mde.  Sieber  J  studied  the  digestive  processes 
in  the  small  intestine  and  the  nutritive  metabolism,  and 
determined  that  these  were  active  and  healthy,  the  absence 
of  intestinal  putrefaction,  that  evil  of  the  constitution,  being 
specially  favourable. 
In  six  months  of  non-action,  the  part  played  by  an  organ 

FIG.  19. — Diagram  of  the  lower  bowel  in  a  female  patient. 

A.C.N.,  Artificial  anus  :  A.S.,  Insertion  of  the  ileum  to  the  colon. 

(After  M.  Mauclaire.) 

can  be  satisfactorily  estimated.  M.  Mauclaire,2  however, 
has  put  on  record  a  case  the  history  of  which  was  longer. 
In  1902  he  operated  on  a  young  woman  and  produced  an 
artificial  anus,  there  being  no  escape  of  faecal' matter  by 
the  ordinary  channel.  Ten  months  later  M.  Mauclaire 
operated  a  second  time  and  shut  off  a  portion  of  the  intes- 
tine. He  left  the  artificial  anus,  but  cut  across 

1  Archiv.fur  experimented  Pathologic,  vol.  xxviii,  p.  311. 

2  Sixtime  Congrh  <fe  Chirurgic,  Paris,  1903,  p.  86. 



the  lower  end  of  the  small  intestine  and  inserted 
it  near  the  iliac  end  of  the  descending  colon  (Fig. 
19).  For  several  days  after  the  operation  the  faces 
were  passed  by  the  normal  aperture,  as  the  small  intes- 
tine now  communicated  directly  with  the  large  intestine, 
near  the  rectum.  This  condition,  however,  did  not  persist, 
for  the  faecal  matter  began  to  flow  back  through  the  ex- 
cluded portion  of  the  large  intestine,  so  reaching  the  artifi- 

FIG.   20. — Diagram  of  the   lower  bowel,    after  a  third  operation,  on  the  case 

in  Fig.  19. 
(After  M.  Mauclaire.) 

cial  anus,  and  causing  inconvenience.  Giving  up  the  hope 
that  this  would  cease,  M.  Mauclaire  performed  a  third 
operation  twenty  months  later.  He  cut  across  the  large 
intestine  near  the  point  vvrfiere  the  small  intestine  had  been 
artificially  led  into  it  (Fig.  20),  so  dividing  the  digestive 
tube  into  two  parts,  one  of  which  remained  in  communica- 
tion with  the  natural  anus,  whilst  the  other,  consisting  of 


nearly  the  whole  of  the  large  intestine,  communicated  with 
the  exterior  by  the  artificial  anus.  In  the  new  state  of 
affairs,  the  food  refuse  passed  directly  into  the  terminal 
portion  of  the  large  intestine,  and  thence,  by  way  of  the 
rectum,  to  the  exterior  through  the  normal  anus  without 
being  able  to  pass  up  the  large  intestine  towards  the  arti- 
ficial anus.  In  this  last  operation  about  a  yard  of  the  small 
intestine  and  the  greater  part  of  the  large  intestine,  the 
caecum,  and  ascending,  transverse  and  descending  colons 
were  removed  from  activity. 

By  the  kindness  of  M.  Mauclaire,  I  have  been  able  to 
watch  his  patient  during  the  last  four  years.  I  satisfied 
myself  that  after  the  supposed  exclusion  of  the  large  intes- 
tine, food  dejecta  ascended  the  colon  and  emerged  by  the 
artificial  anus.  There  was  such  an  accumulation  of  waste 
in  the  large  intestine  that  fragments  did  not  emerge  until 
three,  weeks  after  the  meal  of  which  they  had  formed  part. 
It  was  only  after  the  final  operation,  that  in  which  the  large 
intestine  was  separated,  that  the  dejecta  escaped  only  by  the 
natural  anus,  whilst  a  little  mucus  containing  microbes  was 
passed  through  the  artificial  aperture.  Even  three  years 
after  the  operation,  mucus  continued  to  escape  by  the  latter 
aperture,  it  being  shown  thus  that  after  the  large  intestine 
had  ceased  to  be  a  channel  for  the  faeces,  its  walls  continued 
to  secrete  although  otherwise  it  had  lost  its  function  com- 
pletely. Nevertheless  the  condition  of  this  patient  improved 
and  she  'lived  perfectly  well  without  a  functional  large  in- 
testine. She  takes  food  well  but  has  to  go  to  stool  three 
or  four  times  a  day  and  has  a  tendency  to  diarrhoea.  The 
excreta  are  smooth  and  often  nearly  liquid,  especially  after 
fruit  has  been  eaten. 

The  case  I  have  been  describing,  and  which  I  am  still 
keeping  under  observation,  demonstrates  once  more  the  use- 
lessness  of  the  human  large  intestine;  it  should  convert  the 


most  sceptical  critic.  But  it  also  shows  that  the  suppres- 
sion of  nearly  the  entire  large  intestine  for  several  years 
does  not  completely  get  rid  of  the  intestinal  flora.  Even 
without  this  evidence,  however,  I  do  not  suggest  that  re- 
moval of  the  large  intestine  can  be  thought  of  as  a  means  to 
prevent  the  pernicious  effect  of  the  intestinal  flora. 

Is  it  possible,  without  operative  interference,  to  take 
direct  action  against  the  intestinal  flora  by  the  use  of  anti- 
septics ?  Consideration  of  this  is  already  ancient  history. 
When  the  theory  that  the  intestine  was  a  source  of  auto- 
intoxication was  propounded,  M.  Bouchard1  made  the  at- 
tempt to  cure  such  cases  by  disinfecting  the  digestive  tube 
with  /9-naphthol.  He  found,  however,  that  that  anti- 
septic, like  many  others,  not  only  did  not  completely  dis- 
infect the  intestine  but  sometimes  had  a  harmful  effect  on 
the  body. 

M.  Stern2  has  shown,  in  an  elaborate  memoir,  that  such 
antiseptics  as  calomel,  salol,  /S-naphthol,  naphthaline,  and 
camphor,  when  administered  in  quantities  compatible  with 
health,  do  not  disinfect  the  digestive  tube  at  all.  More 
recently  M.  Strasburger  3  has  shown  that  when  naphthaline 
has  been  given  in  quantities  sufficient  to  impart  its  odour  to 
the  faeces,  the  intestinal  microbes,  so  far  from  being  dimin- 
ished, are  even  increased  in  numbers.  On  the  other  hand, 
after  meals  consisting  of  milk  to  which  there  has  been 
added  an  antiseptic  in  the  proportion  of  a  quarter  of  a  gram 
to  the  litre,  the  intestinal  microbes  are  really  reduced  in 
number.  Strasburger  obtained  his  best  results  with  tano- 
col.  Two  persons  who  used,  according  to  this  method, 
three  to  six  grams  of  tanacol  per  day,  displayed  a  notable 
reduction  in  quantity  of  the  intestinal  flora. 
Strasburger's  conclusion  was  that  "  the  attempt  to  destroy 

1  Lemons  sur  les  auto-intoxications,  Paris,  1886. 

•  Zeitschrift fitr  Hygiene,  1892,  vol.  xii,  p.  88. 

»  ZeitschrifUfiirkliniache  Median,  1903,  vol.  xlviii,  p.  491. 


the  intestinal  microbes  by  the  use  of  chemical  agents  has 
little  chance  of  success."  It  cannot  be  denied  that  under 
special  circumstances  it  is  possible  to  decrease  the  number 
of  microbes,  especially  in  the  small  intestine.  But  this 
result  is  small  and  may  be  followed  by  the  contrary  effect, 
for  the  natural  means  of  defence  of  the  intestine  against 
microbes  are  weakened,  and  the  intestine  itself  may  be 
harmed  more  than  the  microbes. 

Strasburger,  moreover,  is  no  convinced  advocate  of  the 
use  of  purgatives.  The  diminution  of  the  sulpho-con jugate 
ethers  in  the  urine,  which  certainly  may  follow  the 
use  of  purgatives,  does  not  necessarily  indicate  reduced 
putrefaction  in  the  intestine,  but  may  point  only  to  a  less- 
ened absorption  of  the  bacterial  products.  Such  an  inter- 
pretation is  supported  by  an  observed  fact ;  in  the  case  of  a 
dog  belonging  to  Strasburger,  which  had  a  fistula  of  the 
small  intestine,  the  diarrhoea  induced  by  calomel  was  ac- 
companied by  an  indubitable  increase  in  the  total  quantity 
of  intestinal  microbes. 

Strasburger  thinks  that  the  most  favourable  results  can 
be  obtained  by  aiding  the  intestine  in  the  discharge  of  its 
normal  function.  If  it  can  be  brought  to  digest  the  food 
more  completely,  there  is  the  less  pabulum  left  for  the 
microbes.  A  similar  result  can  be  reached  by  lowering  the 
amount  of  food  taken,  and  to  this  course  the  beneficial 
effects  of  starvation  in  acute  diseases  of  the  intestine  may 
be  attributed. 

The  general  conclusion,  reached  after  many  experiments 
on  the  disinfection  of  the  intestine,  is  unfavourable.  Very 
little  is  to  be  expected  from  the  method.  None  the  less«I 
cannot  regard  the  matter  as  definitely  settled.  Cohendy 
has  investigated  the  effect  on  the  intestinal  flora  of  thymol 
which  was  administered  in  several  cases  with  the  object 


of  destroying  parasites.  From  nine  to  twelve  grammes  of 
thymol  were  administered  to  each  patient  in  the  space  of 
three  days,  and  there  was  a  notable  antiseptic  effect, 
Cohendy  believing  that  the  quantity  of  microbes  had  been 
reduced  to  a  thirteenth. 

Such  facts  prove  only  that  the  antiseptic  treatment  is 
available  up  to  a  certain  point.  To  attain  the  results,  how- 
ever, such  large  quantities  must  be  used  that  the  treatment 
can  be  applied  only  in  special  cases  and  at  long  intervals. 
More  use  can  be  made  of  simple  purgatives  which  do  not 
kill  the  microbes  but  eliminate  them  by  the  normal  channel. 
It  has  been  urged  repeatedly  that  calomel,  which  is  often 
used  as  a  purgative,  acts  also  as  an  intestinal  antiseptic ; 
but  it  is  probable  that  its  influence  in  reducing  the  intes- 
tinal flora  is  merely  mechanical.  It  has  been  shown  that 
calomel,  like  some  other  purgatives,  lessens  intestinal 
putrefaction,  the  evidence  being  the  decrease  in  the 
sulpho-conjugate  ethers  in  the  urine.  But  although  the 
diarrhoea  induced  by  purgatives  generally  has  such  a  result, 
spontaneous  diarrhoeas  such  as  those  of  typhoid  fever  and 
of  intestinal  tuberculosis  are  associated  with  increased 

It  is  clear,  however  these  matters  may  be  settled,  that 
regular  activity  of  the  bowels,  increased  by  the  occasional 
use  of  purgatives,  must  diminish  the  formation  of  intestinal 
poisons,  and  therefore  also  the  damage  done  by  these  to 
the  higher  elements  of  the  body. 

When  I  asked  the  relatives  of  Mde.  Robineau  if  they 
could  tell  me  of  any  special  circumstance  which  in  their 
opinion  had  contributed  to  the  extreme  duration  of  the  life 

1  There  is  a  summary  of  this  question  in  Gerhardt's  work  on  intes- 
tinal putrefaction,  in  Ergebnisse  der  Physiologic,  3rd  year,  section  i, 
Wiesbaden,  1904,  pp.  107-154. 


of  this  old  lady,  they  replied  as  follows  : — "  We  are  con- 
vinced that  a  slight  bodily  derangement,  present  for  the  last 
fifty  years,  has  tended  to  prolong  the  life  of  the  old  lady. 
It  cannot  be  said  that  she  has  suffered  from  diarrhoea,  but 
she  has  been  often  subject  to  frequent  calls  of  nature."  It 
was  most  remarkable  that  the  old  lady  showed  no  traces  of 
sclerosis  of  the  arteries.  I  may  mention  the  strongly  con- 
trasting case  of  one  of  my  old  colleagues  to  whom  a  natural 
desire  to  empty  the  bowels  came  only  once  a  week.  A 
more  frequent  call  was  a  sign  of  illness  in  his  case.  Now 
sclerosis  of  the  arteries  appeared  in  so  marked  a  form  that 
he  died  from  it  before  he  had  reached  the  age  of  fifty  years. 
This  may  be  added  to  the  list  of  facts  which  point  to  a 
close  association  between  sclerosis  of  the  arteries  and  the 
functions  of  the  digestive  tube. 

Recently,  at  the  suggestion  of  Mr.  Fletcher,1  the  advan- 
tage of  eating  extremely  slowly  has  been  recognised,  the 
object  being  to  prepare  for  the  utilisation  of  the  food  mate- 
rials, and  to  prevent  intestinal  putrefaction.  Certainly  the 
habit  of  eating  quickly  favours  the  multiplication  of 
microbes  round  about  the  lumps  of  food  which  have  been 
swallowed  without  sufficient  mastication.  It  is  quite  harm- 
ful, however,  to  chew  the  food  too  long,  and  to  swallow  it 
only  after  it  has  been  kept  in  the  mouth  for  a  considerable 
time.  Too  complete  a  use  of  the  food  material  causes  want 
of  tone  in  the  intestinal  wall,  from  which  as  much  harm 
may  come  as  from  imperfect  mastication.  In  America, 
where  Fletcher's  theory  took  its  origin,  there  has  already 
been  described  under  the  name  of  "  Bradyfagy"  a  disease 
arising  from  the  habit  of  eating  too  slowly.  Dr.  Einhorn^8 

1  The  A  B  C  of  our  Nutrition^  New  York,  1903  ;  Dr.  Regnault,  Nov. 
I,  "  L'art  de  manger,"  La  Revue,  1906,  p.  92. 
*  Zeitschr.f.  diatetischev.physikal.  Therapie^.  viii,  1904,  1905. 


a  well-known  specialist  in  the  diseases  of  the  digestive  sys- 
tem, has  found  that  several  cases  of  this  disease  were 
rapidly  cured  when  the  patients  made  up  their  minds  to  eat 
more  quickly  again.  Comparative  physiology  supplies  us 
with  arguments  against  too  prolonged  mastication.  Rumi- 
nants, which  carry  out  to  the  fullest  extent  Mr.  Fletcher's 
plan,  are  notable  for  extreme  intestinal  putrefaction  and  for 
the  short  duration  of  their  lives.  On  the  other  hand,  birds 
and  reptiles,  which  have  a  very  poor  mechanism  for  break- 
ing up  food,  enjoy  much  longer  lives. 

Prolonged  mastication,  then,  cannot  be  recommended  as 
a  preventative  of  intestinal  putrefaction  any  more  than  the 
surgical  removal  of  the  large  intestine  or  the  disinfection  of 
the  digestive  tube.  The  field  lies  open  for  other  means 
which  may  probably  solve  the  problem  more  completely 
and  more  practically. 


The  development  of  the  intestinal  flora  in  man — Harmless- 
ness  of  sterilised  food — Means  of  preventing  the  putrefaction 
of  food — Lactic  fermentation  and  its  anti-putrescent  action — 
Experiments  on  man  and  mice — Longevity  in  races  which 
use  soured  milk — Comparative  study  of  different  soured 
milks — Properties  of  the  Bulgarian  Bacillus — Means  of  pre- 
venting intestinal  putrefaction  with  the  help  of  microbes 

AT  birth  the  human  intestine  is  full,  but  contains  no 
microbes.  Microbes  very  soon  appear  in  it,  because  the 
meconium,  the  contents  of  the  intestines  of  new-born  chil- 
dren, composed  of  bile  and  cast-off  intestinal  mucus  cells, 
is  an  excellent  culture  medium  for  them.  In  the  first  hours 
after  birth,  microbes  begin  to  reach  the  intestine.  In  the 
first  day,  before  the  child  has  taken  any  food  whatever, 
there  is  to  be  found  in  the  meconium  a  varied  flora,  com- 
posed of  several  species  of  microbes.  Under  the  influence 
of  the  mother's  milk  this  flora  is  reduced  and  comes  to  be 
composed  almost  entirely  of  a  special  microbe  described  by 
M.  Tissier  and  called  by  him  Bacillus  bifidus. 

The  food,  therefore,  has  an  influence  on  the  microbes  of 
the  intestine.  If  the  child  be  fed  with  cow's  milk,  the  flora 
is  richer  in  species  than  in  the  case  of  a  child  suckled  by 
its  mother.  Later  on,  also,  the  flora  varies  with  the  food, 
as  has  been  proved  by  MM.  Macfadyen,  Nencki,  and  Mde. 



Sieber  in  the  case  of  a  woman  with  an  intestinal  fistula. 
The  dependence  of  the  intestinal  microbes  on  the  food 
makes  it  possible  to  adopt  measures  to  modify  the  flora  in 
our  bodies  and  to  replace  the  harmful  microbes  by  useful 
microbes.  Unfortunately,  our  actual  knowledge  of  the  in- 
testinal flora  is  still  very  imperfect  because  of  the  impos- 
sibility of  finding  artificial  media  in  which  it  could  be 
grown.  Notwithstanding  this  difficulty,  however,  a 
rational  solution  of  the  problem  must  be  sought. 

Man,  even  in  the  savage  condition,  prepares  his  food  be- 
fore eating  it.  He  submits  much  of  it  to  the  action  of  fire, 
thus  notably  lessening  the  number  of  microbes.  Microbes 
enter  the  digestive  tube  in  vast  numbers  with  raw  food, 
and  in  order  to  lessen  the  number  of  species  in  the 
intestines,  it  is  important  to  eat  only  cooked  food  and  to 
drink  only  liquids  that  have  been  previously  boiled.  In 
that  way,  although  we  cannot  destroy  all  the  microbes  in 
the  food,  because  some  of  them  can  withstand  the  tempera- 
ture of  the  boiling  point  of  water,  we  can  kill  the  great 
majority  of  them. 

It  has  sometimes  been  supposed  that  cooked  or  com- 
pletely sterilised  food  (that  is  to  say  food  that  has  been 
subjected  to  a  temperature  of  from  248°-284°  Fahr.)  is 
harmful  to  the  organism  and  that  much  of  it  is  not  well 
digested.  From  this  point  of  view  protests  have  been 
made  against  the  feeding  of  infants  with  sterilised  milk 
or  even  with  boiled  milk.  Although  in  certain  cases  steril- 
ised milk  is  not  well  supported  by  infants,  it  cannot  be 
doubted  but  that  boiled  milk  and  cooked  food  are  generally 
successful.  The  large  number  of  children  brought  up  suc- 
cessfully on  boiled  cow's  milk  and  the  health  of  travellers 
in  arctic  regions  are  ample  proof  of  this.  I  have  been 
told  by  M.  Charcot  that  in  his  voyage  to  the  antarctic 


regions,  he  and  his  companions  lived  entirely  on  sterilised 
food,  or  on  cooked  food  such  as  the  flesh  of  seals  and 
penguins.  As  they  had  no  green  food  nor  fresh  fruit,  the 
only  raw  food  that  they  ate  was  a  little  cheese.  Living 
under  these  conditions,  all  the  members  of  the  expedition 
enjoyed  good  health,  and  there  was  no  case  of  digestive 
disturbance  in  the  whole  period  of  sixteen  months. 

It  is  obvious  that  abstaining  from  raw  food,  and  so 
reducing  largely  the  entrance  of  new  microbes,  by  no 
means  causes  the  disappearance  of  the  intestinal  flora 
already  existing.  We  must  reckon  with  that  and  with 
the  evil  that  it  does  by  weakening  the  higher  cells  of  the 
tissues.  As  the  part  of  the  flora  that  does  most  damage 
consists  of  microbes  which  cause  putrefaction  of  the  con- 
tents of  the  intestine  and  harmful  fermentations,  particu- 
larly butyric  fermentation,  it  is  against  these  that  our 
efforts  must  be  directed. 

Long  before  the  science  of  bacteriology  was  in  exist- 
ence, men  had  turned  their  attention  to  methods  of  pre- 
venting putrefaction.  Food,  especially  if  it  be  kept  in  a 
warm  place  or  in  a  moist  atmosphere,  soon  begins  to 
putrefy  and  to  become  unpleasant  to  the  taste  and  danger- 
ous to  the  health.  Everyone  has  known  cases  of  poison- 
ing from  putrid  flesh  or  other  food  material.  Foa,1  the 
explorer  of  Central  Africa,  has  related  that  once,  when 
they  were  starving,  he  and  his  men  came  on  the  putrefying 
body  of  an  elephant.  The  negroes  rushed  to  lay  hold  of 
the  carrion,  but  Foa  tried  to  dissuade  them,  explaining 
that  to  eat  flesh  in  such  a  state  was  as  bad  as  taking 
poison.  All  did  not  listen  to  him,  and  three  negroes,  who' 
had  taken  pieces  of  the  body,  swallowed  them  before  they 
had  been  properly  cooked.  All  three  died  in  a  few  days, 
1  Du  Cap  au  lac  Nyassa,  Paris,  1897,  pp.  291-294. 

M   2 


with  the  neck  and  throat  swollen,  the  tongue  almost  para- 
lysed, and  the  abdomen  inflated. 

In  another  case,  sausages  made  of  putrid  horse  flesh 
caused  an  epidemic  at  Rohrsdorf,  in  Prussia,  in  I885.1 
About  forty  people  fell  ill  after  having  eaten  the  sausages, 
which,  according  to  witnesses,  were  green  in  colour,  smelt 
badly,  and  had  a  revolting  appearance.  One  person  died, 
whilst  the  others  recovered  after  cholera-like  symptoms. 
It  is  true  that  all  putrefying  food  does  not  produce  the 
same  effect.  MM.  Tissier  and  Martelly2  found  no  diges- 
tive trouble  after  having  eaten  food  that  was  quite  putrid. 
Everyone  knows  that  the  Chinese  prepare  a  dish  particu- 
larly pleasant  to  gourmets  by  allowing  eggs  to  putrefy. 
Some  decaying  cheeses  are  harmful  to  the  health,  but 
others  can  be  eaten  with  impunity.  The  reason  of  this 
is  that  whilst  putrefying  food  may  contain  microbes  and 
dangerous  toxins,  it  does  not  contain  them  in  all  cases. 
On  the  other  hand,  we  must  take  into  account  the  different 
susceptibilities  of  people  to  the  harmful  action  of  microbes 
and  their  products.  Some  can  swallow  without  any  evil 
result  a  quantity  of  microbes  which  in  the  case  of  other 
individuals  would  produce  a  fatal  attack  of  cholera.  Every- 
thing depends  upon  the  resistance  offered  to  the  microbes 
by  the  invaded  organism. 

Experiments  on  animals  fed  on  putrefying  food  have 
also  given  varied  results.  Some  animals  eat  it  without 
any  harm  resulting,  others  have  attacks  of  vomiting  and 
show  such  a  repugnance  that  it  is  impossible  to  continue 
the  experiment. 

Not  only  flesh  and  other  animal  substances,  but  vege- 
tables can  undergo  putrefaction  and  fermentation  (butyric) 

1  Gaffky  and  Paak,  in  Arbeiten  d.  k.  Gesundheitsamtes,  vol.  vi,  1890. 

2  Annales  de  flnstitui  Pasteur,  1903. 


which  make  it  dangerous  to  eat  them.  Many  accidents 
have  occurred  in  man  as  the  result  of  deteriorated  pre- 
served fruit.  Vegetables,  preserved  in  silos  to  feed  cattle, 
sometimes  go  wrong.  "If,  for  instance,  rainy  days  come 
after  sunny  days,  so  that  the  uncovered  fodder  is  wetted 
again,  the  resulting  ensilage  is  poor  and  has  an  extremely 
unpleasant  butyric  odour,  so  that  the  animals  turn  from  it." 
Sometimes  the  fodder  grows  black  in  the  silo,  and  acquires  a 
special  smell.  "The  animals  will  take  it  only  in  the 
absence  of  other  food ;  their  excreta  become  black,  and  if 
they  are  kept  on  such  a  diet  for  a  time  they  waste  in  a 
marked  manner."  1 

In  popular  practice,  the  value  of  acids  for  preserving 
animal  and  vegetable  food  and  for  preventing  putrefaction 
has  long  been  recognised.  Meats  of  all  kinds,  fish  and 
vegetables  have  been  "  marinated  "  with  vinegar,  as  the 
acetic  acid  in  that  substance,  the  product  of  bacteria, 
wards  off  putrefaction.  If  the  materials  which  it  is  desired 
to  preserve  give  off  acids  themselves,  the  addition  of 
vinegar  may  be  unnecessary.  For  this  reason  some  animal 
products  such  as  milk,  or  vegetables  rich  in  sugar  become 
acid  spontaneously  and  so  can  be  preserved.  Soured 
milk  can  be  made  into  many  kinds  of  cheese,  and  these 
last  for  longer  or  shorter  times.  Many  vegetables  can 
undergo  a  natural  process  of  souring,  when  they  "keep" 
without  difficulty.  Thus  cabbage  becomes  "  sauer-kraut  " 
and  beetroot  and  cucumbers  pass  into  an  acid  state.  In 
many  countries,  as  for  instance  in  Russia,  the  use  of  acidi- 
fied vegetables  is  of  great  importance  in  the  food-supply 
of  the  populace.  Fresh  fruit  and  vegetables  cannot  be 
obtained  in  the  long  winters,  during  which  the  people  con- 

1  Cormouls-Houlfcs,  Vingt-sept  ann&s  ^agriculture  pratique,  Paris, 
1899,  PP-  57-58. 


sume  large  quantities  of  cucumbers,  melons,  apples,  and 
other  fruits  which  have  undergone  an  acid  fermentation 
in  which  lactic  acid  is  the  chief  product.  During  summer, 
milk,  which  acidifies  readily,  is  the  chief  source  of  acid 
materials  for  consumption.  The  chief  beverage  is 
"kwass,"  of  which  black  bread  is  the  main  ingredient, 
and  this  passes  through  not  only  an  alcoholic  fermentation, 
but  an  acidifying  change  in  which  lactic  acid  is  the  most 
important  product. 

Rye  bread,  the  chief  food  of  the  populace,  is  also  a 
product  of  fermentations  amongst  which  the  lactic  acid 
fermentation  is  most  important,  but  in  other  kinds  of  bread 
also  there  is  a  fermentation  in  which  some  of  the  sugar 
is  transformed  to  lactic  acid. 

Soured  milk,  because  of  the  lactic  acid  in  it,  can  impede 
the  putrefaction  of  meat.  In  certain  countries,  accord- 
ingly, meat  is  preserved  in  acid  skimmed  milk  with  the 
result  that  putrefaction  is  prevented.  Lactic  acid  fermenta- 
tion is  equally  important  in  the  food  supply  of  cattle.  It 
is  the  chief  agent  that,  in  the  process  of  preserving  vege- 
tation in  silos,  hinders  putrefaction.  Finally,  the  same 
fermentation  serves  in  distilleries  to  preserve  the  must  from 
which  alcohol  is  prepared. 

This  short  review  is  in  itself  enough  to  show  the  great 
importance  of  lactic  fermentation  as  a  means  of  stopping 
putrefaction  and  butyric  fermentation,  both  of  which  hinder 
the  preservation  of  organic  substances  and  are  capable 
of  exciting  disturbances  in  the  organism. 

As  lactic  fermentation  serves  so  well  to  arrest  putrefac- 
tion in  general,  why  should  it  not  be  used  for  the  same 
purpose  wiihin  the  digestive  tube? 

It  is  a  matter  of  common  knowledge  that  putrefaction 
and  butyric  fermentation  are  arrested  in  the  presence  of 


sugar.  Whereas  meat  preserved  without  special  care  soon 
putrefies,  milk  in  exactly  the  same  conditions  does  not 
putrefy,  but  becomes  sour,  the  reason  being  that  meat  is 
poor  in  sugar  whereas  milk  contains  a  good  deal  of  it. 
However,  the  scientific  explanation  of  this  fundamental 
fact  is  difficult.  It  has  been  shown  conclusively  that  sugar 
itself  cannot  prevent  putrefaction.  Milk,  for  instance,  how- 
ever rich  in  sugar  it  may  be,  readily  putrefies  in  certain 
conditions.  Sugar  preserves  organic  matter  from  putre- 
faction only  because  it  can  readily  undergo  lactic  fermenta- 
tion, and  this  fermentation  is  the  work  of  the  microbes 
described  fifty  years  ago  by  Pasteur.  That  great  dis- 
covery proved  the  part  played  by  microbes  in  fermenta- 
tion and  founded  bacteriology,  a  science  equally  rich  in 
theory  and  in  practice. 

I  need  not  pause  to  develop  the  theme  that  the  anti- 
putrescent  action  of  the  lactic  fermentation  depends  on  the 
production  of  lactic  acid  by  microbes,  because  I  have 
explained  the  matter  at  length  in  the  tenth  chapter  of  the 
"  Nature  of  Man."  If  the  lactic  acid  be  neutralised,  the 
organic  matter  soon  putrefies,  notwithstanding  the  pre- 
sence of  the  lactic  microbes.  The  most  important  point 
is  as  to  whether  lactic  fermentation  really  arrests  intestinal 
putrefaction.  Several  sets  of  observations  have  been  made 
upon  this  matter.  Dr.  Herter,1  of  New  York,  injected 
directly  into  the  small  intestine  of  a  number  of  dogs 
quantities  of  different  microbes.  To  test  the  action  of 
these  on  intestinal  putrefaction,  he  investigated  the  sulpho- 
conjugate  ethers  in  the  urine,  as  he  believed,  in  accord- 
ance with  current  and  well  justified  opinion,  that 
these  substances  are  the  best  proofs  of  the  existence  of 
putrefaction.  He  found  that  whilst  the  introduction  of 
1  British  Medical  Journal,  1897,  Dec.  25th,  p.  1898. 


quantities  of  Bacillus  coli  or  Bacillus  proteus  increased  the 
intestinal  putrefaction,  lactic  bacilli  notably  lessened  it. 
Herter  found  a  notable  diminution  of  sulpho-conjugate 
ethers  in  the  urine  of  dogs  which  had  been  treated  with 
the  lactic  microbes. 

The  experiments  which  Dr.  M.  Cohendy1  performed 
upon  himself  during  a  period  of  nearly  six  months  are 
still  more  interesting. 

When  Dr.  Cohendy  had  proved  that  much  intestinal 
putrefaction  occurred  during  a  period  of  25  days,  in  which 
he  lived  on  an  ordinary  mixed  diet,  he  began  to  take  pure 
cultures  of  lactic  bacillus,  taken  from  yahourth.  In  a 
period  of  74  days,  he  took  quantities  varying  from  280 
to  35°  grams  of  the  culture. 

Analysis  of  the  urine  during  the  progress  of  the  experi- 
ment showed  that  intestinal  putrefaction  had  notably  de- 
creased whilst  the  lactic  bacilli  were  being  taken,  and  that 
the  diminution  persisted  seven  weeks  after  the  taking  of 
the  bacilli  ceased.  Dr.  Cohendy  gives  it  as  the  direct 
result  of  his  experiment  that  the  introduction  of  lactic 
ferment  into  the  intestine  definitely  arrests  putrefac- 
tion. He  obtained  this  result  on  a  diet  consisting  of  400 
grams  of  soup,  150  of  meat,  700  of  grain-food,  400  of 
green  vegetables,  300  of  fruits  and  dessert  and  a  litre  of 
water.  He  came  to  the  conclusion  that  the  elimination  of 
meat  from  the  diet  was  unnecessary,  as  the  particular  kind 
of  lactic  ferment  he  employed  was  extremely  active  in  in- 
hibiting the  proteolytic  ferments. 

Later  experiments  made  by  Dr.  Cohendy  showed  that 
the  lactic  bacillus  became  so  acclimatised  in  the  human 
intestine  that  it  was  to  be  found  there  several  weeks  after 
it  had  been  swallowed. 

1  Cotnptes  rendus  de  la  Soc.  de  Biologic,  1906,  March  i;th. 


Dr.  Pochon,  assistant  to  Professor  Combe l  at  Lausanne, 
has  repeated  on  himself  the  experiments  of  Cohendy.  He 
took  for  several  weeks  milk  curdled  with  pure  cultures  of 
lactic  acid  microbes  and  obtained  "  results  that  were  quite 
definite  as  to  intestinal  putrefaction."  Analysis  of  his 
urine  showed  that  there  was  a  marked  diminution  of  indol 
and  phenol,  substances  which  are  certain  indexes  of  in- 
testinal putrefaction. 

In  addition  to  such  observations  on  lactic  bacilli  there 
is  a  good  deal  of  knowledge  as  to  the  effect  of  lactic  acid 
taken  in  bulk.  The  result  of  the  various  observations2 
shows  that  the  acid  lessens  intestinal  putrefaction  and 
lowers  the  quantity  of  sulpho-conjugate  ethers  in  the 
urine.  This  fact  explains  why  favourable  results  follow 
the  use  of  lactic  acid  in  many  intestinal  diseases  such  as 
infantile  diarrhoea,  tuberculous  enteritis  and  even  Asiatic 
cholera.  The  addition  of  this  remedy  to  practical  thera- 
peutics is  due  chiefly  to  Professor  Hayem.  It  is  employed 
not  only  in  the  treatment  of  diseases  of  the  digestive 
system  (dyspepsia,  enteritis  and  colitis),  but  is  indicated 
also  in  diabetes  and  is  used  locally  in  tuberculous  ulcera- 
tions  of  the  larynx.  As  quantities  up  to  twelve  grams 
can  be  given  by  the  mouth  daily,  it  is  plain  that  the  system 
is  tolerant  of  this  acid.  It  is  either  oxidised  in  the  tissues 
or  excreted  with  the  urine.  In  the  case  of  a 
diabetic  woman  who  had  taken  80  grams  of  lactic  acid 
in  four  days,  Nencki  and  Sieber3  found  no  traces  of  it 

1  Dr.  Combe,  L'auto  intoxication  intestinale,  Paris,  1906.  This  valuable 
work  contains  much  useful  information  on  the  subject.  ,, 

2  Grundzach,  Zeitschrift  fur  klinische  Medezin,  1893,  P-  7°  :  Schmitz, 
Zeitschrift  fur  physiologiscfte  Chemie,    1894,  vol.   xix,  p.  401  ;  Singer, 
Therapeulische  Monatshefte,  1901,  p.  441. 

J  Journal fitrpraktische  Chemie,  1882,  vol.  xxvi,  p.  43. 


in  the  urine.  On  the  other  hand,  Stadelmann 1  found  a 
notable  quantity  of  the  acid  in  another  diabetic  patient 
who  had  been  taking  over  four  grams  daily. 

The  general  interpretation  of  the  benefits  gained  from 
the  use  of  lactic  acid  ferments  is  that  they  depend  solely 
on  the  action  of  the  lactic  acid  which  they  produce  in 
preventing  the  multiplication  of  the  microbes  which  cause 
putrefaction.  Recent  investigations  made  by  Dr.  Belon- 
owsky,  at  the  Pasteur  Institute,  show  that  a  lactic  ferment 
isolated  from  yahourth  and  described  as  the  Bulgarian 
bacillus  owes  its  antiseptic  powers  not  only  to  lactic  acid 
but  to  another  substance  which  it  secretes.  Dr.  Be"lon- 
owsky  has  studied  the  effects  of  this  bacillus  upon  mice,  by 
adding  to  their  previously  sterilised  food  quantities  of 
this  lactic  microbe.  As  control  experiments  he  fed  other 
mice  on  food  to  which  lactic  acid  had  been  added  in 
quantities  corresponding  to  the  quantity  produced  by  the 
Bulgarian  bacillus,  or  which  had  been  mixed  with  other 
kinds  of  bacilli.  Another  set  of  mice  were  given  normal 
food  without  the  addition  of  either  microbes  or  lactic 

Out  of  these  groups  of  mice,  those  which  had  been  given 
the  Bulgarian  bacillus  thrived  best  and  had  most  progeny. 
Their  droppings  showed  fewest  microbes,  particularly 
microbes  of  putrefaction. 

The  next  stage  in  Dr.  Belonowsky's  experiments  was 
to  feed  mice  not  with  living  quantities  of  the  Bulgarian 
bacillus,  but  with  cultures  which  had  been  sterilised  by  heat 
(i2o°-i4o°  Fahr.).  These  mice  lived  as  well  as  those  to 
which  living  cultures  had  been  supplied,  and  notably  better 
than  those  supplied  with  pure  lactic  acid.  It  is  evident 
therefore  that  there  is  some  other  product  of  this 
1  Atchiv.furexperimentelle  Pathologic,  1883,  vol.  xvii,  p.  442. 


bacillus  which  favours  life  by  preventing  intestinal 

Dr.  Belonowsky  showed,  moreover,  that  the  Bulgarian 
bacillus  cures  a  special  intestinal  disease  known  as  mouse 

The  experiments  which  I  have  described  show  that  in- 
testinal putrefaction  is  to  be  combated  not  by  lactic  acid 
itself,  but  by  the  introduction  into  the  organism  of  cultures 
of  the  lactic  bacilli.  The  latter  become  acclimatised  in 
the  human  digestive  tube  as  they  find  there  the  sugary 
material  required  for  their  subsistence,  and  by  producing 
disinfecting  bodies  benefit  the  organism  which  supports 

From  time  immemorial  human  beings  have  absorbed 
quantities  of  lactic  microbes  by  consuming  in  the  uncooked 
condition  substances  such  as  soured  milk,  kephir,  sauer- 
kraut, or  salted  cucumbers  which  have  undergone  lactic 
fermentation.  By  these  means  they  have  unknowingly 
lessened  the  evil  consequences  of  intestinal  putrefaction. 
In  the  Bible  soured  milk  is  frequently  spoken  of.  When 
Abraham  entertained  the  three  angels  he  set  before  them 
soured  milk  and  sweet  milk  and  the  calf  which  he  had 
dressed  (Genesis  xviii.  8).  In  his  fifth  book,  Moses 
enumerates  amongst  the  food  which  Jehovah  had  given 
his  people  to  eat  "  Soured  milk  of  kine  and  goat's  milk, 
with  fat  of  lambs  and  rams  of  the  breed  of  Bashan,  and 
goats  with  the  fat  of  kidneys"  (Deut.  xxxii.  I4).1 

A  food  known  as  "  Leben  raib,"  which  is  a  soured  milk, 
prepared  from  the  milk  of  buffaloes,  kine  or  goats,  has 

1  In  the  English  authorised  version  as  in  the  translation  of  Oster- 
wald  the  word  "  butter "  is  used  in  place  of  "  soured  milk."  Professor 
Metchnikoff  follows  the  translation  given  by  Ebstein  in  his  work  on 
the  Medicine  of  the  Old  Testament. 


been  used  in  Egypt  from  the  remotest  antiquity.  A  similar 
preparation  known  as  "yahourth"  is  familiar  to  the 
populations  of  the  Balkan  Peninsula.  The  natives  of 
Algiers  make  a  kind  of  "  leben  "  not  identical  with  the 
Egyptian  form. 

Soured  milk  is  consumed  in  great  quantities  in  Russia 
in  two  forms,  "  prostokwacha,"  which  is  raw  milk  spon- 
taneously coagulated  and  soured,  and  "  varenetz,"  which 
is  boiled  milk  soured  with  a  yeast. 

The  chief  food  of  many  natives  of  tropical  Africa  con- 
sists of  soured  milk.  The  staple  diet  of  the  Mpeseni  is 
"  a  curdled  milk,  almost  solidified."  "  Meat  is  eaten  only 
on  ceremonial  occasions."  According  to  Foa,  a  tribe  of 
the  Nyassa-Tanganyika  plateau,  like  the  Zulus,  take  milk 
only  in  the  form  of  a  raw  cheese  mixed  with  salt  and 

Dr.  Lima  of  Mossamedes,  in  West  Africa,  has  told  me 
that  the  natives  of  many  regions  south  of  Angola  live 
almost  entirely  on  milk.  They  employ  the  cream  as  an 
ointment  for  the  skin,  whilst  the  milk,  soured  and  curdled, 
is  their  staple  food.  M.  Nogueira  reported  the  same  cir- 
cumstances nearly  fifty  years  ago  after  his  journey  in  the 
province  of  Angola. 

Just  as  cheeses  vary  in  different  countries,  so  curdled 
milk  varies  slightly  according  to  the  nature  of  the  flora 
of  microbes.  Taking  all  the  soured  milks  that  are  pro- 
duced by  natural  processes,  it  may  be  said  that  the  greater 
number  of  them  contain  not  only  microbes  that  produce 
lactic  acid,  but  also  yeasts  that  cause  alcoholic  fermenta- 
tions. Kephir,  which  is  prepared  from  the  milk  of  kine, 
and  koumiss,  which  is  a  product  of  mares'  milk,  are 
notably  alcoholic.  Koumiss  is  the  well-known  national 
beverage  of  the  Kirghises,  Tartars  and  Kulmucks,  nomads 


of  Asiatic  Russia  who  are  famous  horse  breeders,  whilst 
kephir  is  the  native  drink  of  the  mountaineers  of  the 
Caucasus,  the  Ossetes,  and  some  other  tribes. 

It  has  been  supposed  that  the  chief  merit  of  kephir  was 
that  it  was  more  easy  to  digest  than  milk,  as  some  of  its 
casein  is  dissolved  in  the  process  of  fermentation.  Kephir, 
in  fact,  was  supposed  to  be  partly  digested  milk.  This 
view  has  not  been  confirmed.  Professor  Hayem  thinks 
that  the  good  effects  of  kephir  are  due  to  the  presence  of 
lactic  acid  which  replaces  the  acid  of  the  stomach  and 
has  an  antiseptic  effect.  The  experiments  of  M.  Rovighi, 
which  I  spoke  of  in  The  Nature  of  Man,  have  confirmed 
the  latter  fact,  which  now  may  be  taken  as  certain.  The 
action  of  kephir  in  preventing  intestinal  putrefaction  de- 
pends on  the  lactic  acid  bacilli  which  it  contains. 

Kephir,  although  in  some  cases  certainly  beneficial, 
cannot  be  recommended  for  the  prolonged  use  necessary  if 
intestinal  putrefaction  is  to  be  overcome.  It  is  produced 
by  combined  lactic  and  alcoholic  fermentations,  and  as  it 
contains  up  to  one  per  cent,  of  alcohol,  its  use  as  a  food 
for  years  would  involve  the  absorption  of  considerable 
quantities  of  alcohol.  The  yeasts  which  produce  it  can  be 
acclimatised  in  the  human  digestive  tract,  in  which,  how- 
ever, they  are  harmful,  as  they  are  favourable  to  the  germs 
of  infectious  diseases  such  as  the  bacillus  of  typhoid  fever, 
and  the  vibrio  of  Asiatic  cholera. 

Kephir  has  also  the  disadvantage  that  its  flora  varies 
considerably  and  is  not  well  known.  There  has  been  little 
success  in  producing  it  by  pure  cultures  as  would  be 
necessary  were  it  to  be  brought  into  general  use.  When 
it  is  prepared  from  a  dried  remnant  there  is  the  risk  of 
stray  microbes  being  included,  and  these  may  bring  about 
pernicious  fermentations.  Professor  Hayem  prohibits  its 


use  in  the  case  of  persons  in  whom  food  is  retained  for 
long  in  the  stomach.  "  When  it  is  retained  in  the  stomach, 
kephir  goes  on  fermenting,  and  there  are  developed  in  the 
contents  butyric  and  acetic  acids  which  aggravate  the  diges- 
tive disturbances."  l 

As  it  is  the  lactic  and  not  the  alcoholic  fermentation  on 
which  the  valuable  properties  of  kephir  depend,  it  is 
correct  to  replace  it  by  soured  milk  that  contains  either  no 
alcohol  or  merely  the  smallest  traces  of  it. 

The  fact  that  so  many  races  make  soured  milk  and  use 
it  copiously  is  an  excellent  testimony  to  its  usefulness. 
M.  Nogueira  has  written  to  me  to  say  how  much  he  was 
astonished,  on  revisiting  after  a  long  period  of  absence 
the  district  of  Mossamedes,  to  find  the  natives  so  well  pre- 
served and  displaying  so  few  traces  of  senility.  Dr.  Lima 
has  stated  that  amongst  the  natives  of  the  region  south 
of  Angola  "many  individuals  of  extraordinary  longevity 
are  to  be  found."1  Although  they  are  thin  and  withered, 
these  old  people  are  very  active  and  can  make  long 

Mr.  Wales,  a  lawyer  at  Binghampton,  U.S.A.,  has  been 
so  good  as  to  make  me  acquainted  with  some  extremely 
interesting  facts  taken  from  a  work  by  James  Riley  which 
is  now  a  bibliographical  rarity.2  In  the  narrative  of  a  ship- 
wreck of  the  vessel  on  which  he  made  a  voyage  in  1815, 
James  Riley  states  that  the  wandering  Arabs  of  the  desert 
live  almost  wholly  on  the  milk  of  camels,  fresh  or  soured. 

1  Presse  mtdicale,  1904,  p.  619. 

*  "An  authentic  narrative  of  the  loss  of  the  American  brig  Commerce 
wrecked  on  the  western  coast  of  Africa  in  the  month  of  August,  1815, 
with  an  account  of  the  sufferings  of  the  surviving  officers  and  crew, 
who  were  enslaved  by  the  wandering  Arabs  on  the  African  desert  or 
Zaharah  ;  and  observations  historical,  geographical,  etc."  by  James 
Riley.  Hartford,  S.  Andrus  and  Son,  1854. 


On  this  diet  they  enjoy  excellent  health,  display  great 
vigour  and  reach  advanced  ages.  Riley  estimated  that 
some  of  the  old  men  must  have  lived  for  two  to  three 
hundred  years.  No  doubt  these  figures  are  much  too  high, 
but  it  is  probable  that  the  Arabs  Riley  encountered  lived 
really  unusually  long. 

Mr.  Wales  has  examined  Riley's  work  critically,  and 
is  of  the  opinion  that  that  author  was  a  well-informed, 
sagacious  and  conscientious  observer. 

M.  Grigoroff,  a  Bulgarian  student  at  Geneva,  has  been 
surprised  by  the  number  of  centenarians  to  be  found  in 
Bulgaria,  a  region  in  which  yahourth,  a  soured  milk,  is 
the  stable  food.  Some  of  the  centenarians,  described  by 
M.  Chemin  in  his  memoir,  lived  chiefly  on  a  milk  diet. 
Marie  Priou,  for  example,  who  died  in  the  Haute-Garonne 
in  1838  at  the  age  of  158  years,  had  lived  for  the  last  ten 
years  of  her  life  entirely  on  cheese  and  goat's  milk  (op.  cit. 
p.  100).  Ambroise  Jantet,  a  labourer  of  Verdun,  who  died 
in  1751  at  the  age  of  in  years,  "ate  nothing  but  unleav- 
ened bread  and  drank  nothing  but  skimmed  milk  "  (p. 
!33)«  Nicole  Marc,  who  died  aged  1 10  years,  at  the  chateau 
of  Colemberg  (Pas-de-Calais),  a  hunch-back  and  cripple, 
"  lived  only  on  bread  and  milk-food.  It  was  only  towards 
the  end  of  her  life  and  after  much  persuasion  that  she  took 
a  little  wine  "  (Chemin,  p.  139). 

I  owe  to  the  kindness  of  M.  Simine,  an  engineer  in 
the  Caucasus,  the  following  communication,  taken  from 
the  newspaper  Tiflissky  Listok,  Oct.  8th,  1904.  "  In  the 
village  of  Sba,  in  the  district  of  Gori,  there  is  an  old  Ossete 
woman,  Thense  Abalva,  whose  age  is  supposed  to  be 
about  1 80  years  (?).  This  woman  is  still  quite  capable 
and  looks  after  her  household  duties  and  sews.  Although 
she  is  bent,  she  walks  firmly  enough.  Thense  has  never 


taken  alcoholic  liquors.  She  rises  early  in  the  morning, 
and  her  chief  food  is  barley  bread  and  butter  milk,  taken 
after  the  churning  of  the  cream.  Butter  milk  is  a  liquid 
containing  very  many  lactic  microbes. 

Mrs.  Jenny  Read,  an  American,  has  written  to  me  that 
her  father,  eighty-four  years  old,  "  owes  his  health  to  the 
curdled  milk  which  he  has  taken  for  the  last  40  years." 

Curdled  milk  and  the  other  products  of  milk  to  which 
I  have  referred  are  the  work  of  the  lactic  microbes  which 
produce  lactic  acid  at  the  expense  of  milk  sugar.  As  many 
different  kinds  of  soured  milk  have  been  consumed  on  a 
vast  scale  and  have  proved  to  be  useful,  it  might  be 
supposed  that  any  of  them  is  suitable  for  regular  con- 
sumption with  the  object  of  preventing  intestinal  putrefac- 

From  the  point  of  view  of  flavour  I  find  that  soured 
milk,  prepared  from  raw  milk,  is  much  the  more  agree- 
able. However,  when  a  food  is  to  be  selected  for  con- 
sumption during  a  long  period  of  time,  we  must  keep 
hygiene  strictly  in  view.  It  is  certain,  therefore,  that  the 
Russian  "  prostokwacha, "  as  well  as  any  other  soured 
raw  milk,  must  be  rejected.  Raw  milk  contains  a  large 
assortment  of  microbes,  and  frequently  some  of  these  are 
harmful.  The  bacillus  of  bovine  tuberculosis,  as  well 
as  other  pernicious  microbes,  may  be  found  in  it.  Accord- 
ing to  the  investigations  of  Heim  l  the  vibrios  of  Asiatic 
cholera,  when  placed  in  raw  milk,  survive  even  when  the 
milk  has  become  quite  soured.  In  similar  conditions  the 
bacillus  of  typhoid  fever  remains  alive  for  35  days  and  dies 
only  after  it  has  been  kept  for  48  days  in  completely  soured 

1  Arbeiten  a.  d.  k.  Gesundheitsamte,  1889,  vol.  v,  pp.  297-304. 


As  raw  milk  nearly  always  contains  traces  of  faecal 
matter  from  the  cow,  it  sometimes  happens  that  pernicious 
microbes  are  introduced  from  that  source,  and  remain  alive 
notwithstanding  the  acid  coagulation  of  the  milk.  The 
lactic  microbes  certainly  prevent  the  multiplication  of  other 
microbes,  as,  for  instance,  those  of  putrefaction,  but  are 
incapable  of  destroying  them.  Moreover,  raw  milk  often 
contains  fungi  (yeasts,  torulas,  and  oi'dia)  the  presence  of 
which  is  favourable  to  the  development  of  such  pernicious 
microbes  as  the  cholera  vibrio  and  the  bacillus  of  typhoid 

Prolonged  consumption  of  raw  milk  increases  the  risk 
of  introducing  dangerous  microbes  into  the  organism,  and 
this  possibility  drives  me  to  recommend  soured  milk  pre- 
pared after  heating.  Theoretically,  it  would  be  best  to 
sterilise  the  milk  completely  so  that  all  the  contained 
microbes  would  be  destroyed.  This,  however,  requires 
heating  the  milk  to  a  temperature  of  from  226°  to  248° 
Fahr.,  by  which  it  acquires  an  unpleasant  flavour.  On 
the  other  hand,  the  pasteurising  of  milk  at  a  temperature 
of  about  140°  Fahr.  is  not  sufficient  to  get  rid  entirely  of 
the  bacilli  of  tuberculosis  and  the  spores  of  the  butyric 
bacilli.  We  have,  therefore,  to  fall  back  on  a  middle 
course,  and  be  content  with  boiling  the  milk  for  several 
minutes.  By  so  doing  we  certainly  kill  the  tubercle  bacilli 
and  the  spores  of  some  of  the  butyric  bacilli,1  there  being 
left  only  some  butyric  spores  and  the  spores  of  Bacillus 
subtilis,  to  destroy  which  a  much  higher  temperature  is 

As  some  kinds  of  soured  milk,  such  as  "  varenetz," 
41  yahourth,"  "  leben,"  etc.,  are  prepared  from  boiled  milk, 

1  See  Grasberger  and  Schattenfroh,  Archii'.fiir  Hygiene,  1902,  rol 
xlii,  p.  246. 


it  might  be  supposed  that  they  fulfil  the  conditions  neces- 
sary for  prolonged  use.  A  closer  examination,  however, 
makes  us  reject  them. 

Boiled  milk,  to  make  it  undergo  the  lactic  fermentation 
properly,  must  have  added  to  it  a  prepared  ferment.  What 
is  necessary  is  not  merely  rennet,  as  was  formerly  sup- 
posed, but  a  number  of  organised  ferments,  that  is  to  say, 
microbes.  In  the  preparation  of  these  soured  milks,  a 
leaven  is  employed,  one  of  the  names  of  which  is  "  Maya,"' 
and  which  contains  not  only  lactic  microbes,  but  several 
others.  MM.  Rist  and  Khoury  l  have  come  to  the  conclu- 
sion that  the  Egyptian  "leben"  contained  a  flora  com- 
posed of  five  species,  three  of  which  are  bacteria  and  two 
yeasts.  The  bacteria  produce  lactic  acid  and  the  yeasts 
alcohol.  Although  the  result  is  that  "  leben  "  is  a  nearly 
solid  substance,  whilst  kephir  is  a  liquid,  the  two  are  closely 
similar.  In  both  cases  we  have  to  do  witfi  coincident  lactic 
.and  alcoholic  fermentations,  and  my  remarks  regarding 
kephir  apply  equally  well  to  the  Egyptian  "  leben." 

Through  the  agency  of  Prof.  Massol  of  Geneva,  I  have 
obtained  a  specimen  of  the  Bulgarian  "  yahourth."  Work- 
ing with  his  pupil,  M.  Grigoroff,  M.  Massol2  has  isolated 
several  microbes  from  this  milk,  amongst  these  being  a 
very  active  lactic  bacillus.  The  same  soured  milk  has  been 
studied  in  my  laboratory  by  Drs.  M.  Cohendy3  and 
Michelson.  They  found  in  it  a  very  powerful  lactic  fer- 
ment, which  has  been  named  the  Bulgarian  bacillus.  This 
was  the  microbe  employed  in  the  experiments  of  M.  Belon- 
owsky,  to  which  I  have  already  referred.  More  recently,  it 
has  been  carefully  investigated  from  the  chemical  point  of 

1  Annales  de  tlnstitut  Pasteur,  1902,  p.  65. 

-  Revue  mMicale  de  la  Suisse  romande,  1905,  p.  716. 

8  Comptes  rendus  de  la  Soc.  Biologique,  March  i;th,  1906. 


view  by  MM.  G.  Bertrand  and  Weisweiler  l  at  the  Pasteur 
Institute.  It  proved  to  be  an  extremely  active  producer  of 
lactic  acid,  supplying  25  grammes  per  litre  of  milk.  The 
other  acids  which  this  bacillus  produces,  such  as  succinic 
and  acetic  acids,  are  formed  only  in  very  small  quantities 
(about  50  centigrams  a  litre).  Formic  acid  is  produced 
only  in  traces.  On  the  other  hand,  the  Bulgarian  bacillus 
forms  neither  alcohol  nor  acetone,  two  frequent  products  of 
bacterial  fermentation.  The  bacillus  also  differs  from  other 
lactic  ferments  inasmuch  as  it  has  no  action  on  albumin- 
oids (casein,  etc.),  nor  on  fats.  All  these  qualities  make 
the  Bulgarian  bacillus  much  the  most  useful  of  the  microbes 
which  can  be  acclimatised  in  the  digestive  tube  for  the 
purpose  of  arresting  putrefactions  and  pernicious  fermenta- 
tions, such  as  the  butyric  fermentation. 

As  in  all  the  known  soured  milks  (yahourth,  leben,  pro- 
stokwacha,  kephir,  and  koumiss)  the  lactic  bacilli  are  asso- 
ciated with  a  rich  flora  in  which  pernicious  microbes  may 
be  met  (such  as  the  red  torula,  a  microbe  which  predis- 
poses to  cholera  and  typhoid  fever,  which  I  found  in  the 
leaven  of  yahourth,  bought  in  Paris),  it  is  necessary  to 
work  out  a  method  by  which  good  curdled  milk  can  be 
produced  with  the  aid  of  pure  cultures  of  the  lactic  microbes. 

It  was  the  obvious  course  to  begin  with  the  Bulgarian 
bacillus,  as  that  is  known  to  be  the  best  producer  of  lactic 
acid.  It  coagulates  milk  rapidly,  giving  it  a  strongly  acid 
flavour,  but  it  often  also  gives  a  disagreeable  taste  of  tallow. 
It  is  true  that  after  it  has  been  kept  for  a  long  time  in  the 
laboratory  in  the  form  of  pure  cultures  in  sterilised  milk, 
the  bacillus  loses  to  a  large  extent  its  power  of  saponifying 
fats,  the  taste  of  the  curdled  milk  befng  then  more  agree- 
able. If  necessary,  therefore,  soured  milk  prepiared  exclu- 
1  Annales  de  PInstitut  Pasteur,  1906,  p.  977. 

N  2 


sively  with  the  Bulgarian  bacillus  can  be  used.  -In  practice, 
however,  it  is  useful  to  associate  with  it  another  lactic 
microbe,  known  as  the  paralactic  bacillus,  as  the  latter, 
although  producing  less  lactic  acid  than  the  Bulgarian 
bacillus,  does  not  break  up  the  fats  and  gives  the  curdled 
milk  a  very  pleasant  flavour. 

As  it  is  undesirable  to  absorb  too  much  fatty  matter,  it 
is  necessary  to  prepare  curdled  milk  for  regular  use  from 
skimmed  milk.  After  the  milk  has  been  boiled  and 
rapidly  cooled,  pure  cultures  of  the  lactic  microbes  are 
sown  in  it,  in  sufficient  quantities  to  prevent  the  germina- 
tion of  spores  already  in  the  milk  and  not  destroyed  in 
the  process  of  boiling.  The  fermentation  lasts  a  number 
of  hours,  varying  according  to  the  temperature,  and  finally 
produces  a  sour  curdled  milk,  pleasant  to  the  taste  and 
active  in  preventing  intestinal  putrefaction.  This  milk, 
taken  daily  in  quantities  of  from  300  to  500  cubic  centi- 
metres, controls  the  action  of  the  intestine,  and  stimulates 
the  kidneys  favourably.1  It  can  therefore  be  recommended 
in  many  cases  of  disorder  of  the  digestive  apparatus,  of 
the  kidneys,  and  in  several  skin  diseases. 

The  Bulgarian  bacillus  taken  from  yahourth  or  from 
soured  milk,  prepared  from  pure  cultures  of  lactic  microbes, 
can  live  in  warm  temperatures,  and,  as  has  been  shown 
by  Dr.  Cohendy,  is  able  to  take  its  place  in  the  intestinal 
flora  of  man. 

Soured  milk,  prepared  according  to  the  receipt  which 
I  have  given,  has  been  analysed  by  M.  Fouard,  an  assist- 
ant at  the  Pasteur  Institute.  When  it  was  ready  to  be  taken, 
M.  Fouard  found  in  it  about  10  grammes  of  lactic  acid  per 
litre.  Moreover,  a  large  proportion  (nearly  38  per  cent.) 
of  the  casein  had  been  rendered  soluble  during  the  fer- 

1  Soured  milk  can  be  taken  at  any  time  of  the  day,  with  or  in  between 


mentation,  which  shows  that  its  albuminous  matter  is  pre- 
pared for  digestion  much  as  in  kephir.  Of  the  phosphate 
of  lime  (which  is  the  chief  mineral  substance  of  milk)  68  per 
cent,  was  rendered  soluble  during  the  fermentation.  These 
facts  all  confirm  the  utility  of  the  soured  milk  prepared 
from  pure  cultures  of  lactic  bacteria. 

Those  persons  who,  from  some  reason  or  other,  cannot 
take  milk,  may  swallow  the  bacilli  in  a  pure  culture  with- 
out milk.  However,  as  the  microbes  need  sugar  to  produce 
lactic  acid,  it  is  necessary  to  take  with  them  a  certain 
qjuantity  of  sweet  food  (jam,  sweet-meats,  and  especially 

The  Bulgarian  bacillus  produces  lactic  acid  not  only 
from  milk  sugar,  but  also  from  many  other  sugars,  for  in- 
stance, cane  sugar,  maltose,  levuloseand  especially  glucose. 

Cultures  of  the  bacillus  can  be  made  not  only  in  milk, 
but  in  vegetable  broths,  or  broths  of  animal  peptone  to 
which  sugar  has  been  added.  The  cultures  can  be  taken 
in  a  dry  form  (powders  or  tabloids),  or  in  the  liquid  in 
which  the  bacilli  had  themselves  been  developed. 

A  reader  who  has  little  knowledge  of  such  matters  may 
be  surprised  by  my  recommendation  to  absorb  large  quan- 
tities of  microbes,  as  the  general  belief  is  that  microbes 
are  all  harmful.  This  belief,  however,  is  erroneous.  There 
are  many  useful  microbes,  amongst  which  the  lactic  bacilli 
have  an  honourable  place.  Moreover,  the  attempt  has 
already  been  made  to  cure  certain  diseases  by  the  adminis- 
tration of  cultures  of  bacteria.  M.  Brudzinsky  1  has  used 
cultures  of  lactic  microbes  in  certain  intestinal  diseases  of 
infants,  whilst  Dr.  Tissier2  has  used  them  in  similar 
affections  of  infants  and  adults. 

1  Jahrbuch  fur  Kindertieilkunde,  N.  F.  12  Ergansungsheft,  1900. 

2  Annales  de  tlnstitut  Pasteur,  1905,  p.  295  ;  Tribune  medicate,  Feb. 
24th,  1906. 


From  the  general  point  of  view  of  this  book,  the  course 
recommended  consists  of  the  absorption  either  of  soured 
milk  prepared  by  a  group  of  lactic  bacteria,  or  of  pure 
cultures  of  the  Bulgarian  bacillus,  but  in  each  case  taking 
at  the  same  time  a  certain  quantity  of  milk  sugar  or 

For  more  than  eight  years  I  took,  as  a  regular  part 
of  my  diet,  soured  milk  at  first  prepared  from  boiled  milk, 
inoculated  with  a  lactic  leaven.  Since  then,  I  have  changed 
the  method  of  preparation  and  have  adopted  finally  the  pure 
cultures  which  I  have  been  describing.  I  am  very  well 
pleased  with  the  result,  and  I  think  that  my  experiment  has 
gone  on  long  enough  to  justify  my  view.  Several  of  my 
friends,  some  of  whom  suffered  from  maladies  of  the  intes- 
tine or  kidneys,  have  followed  my  example,  and  have  been 
well  satisfied.  I  think,  therefore,  that  lactic  bacteria  can 
render  a  great  service  in  the  fight  against  intestinal  putre- 
faction . 

If  it  be  true  that  our  precocious  and  unhappy  old  age  is 
due  to  poisoning  of  the  tissues  (the  greater  part  of  the 
poison  coming  from  the  large  intestine  inhabited  by  num- 
berless microbes),  it  is  c4ear  that  agents  which  arrest  intes- 
tinal putrefaction  must  at  the  same  time  postpone  and 
ameliorate  old  age.  This  theoretical  view  is  confirmed  by 
the  collection  of  facts  regarding  races  which  live  chiefly  on 
soured  milk,  and  amongst  which  great  ages  are  common. 
However,  in  a  question  so  important,  the  theory  must  be 
tested  by  direct  observations.  For  this  purpose  the  numer- 
ous infirmaries  for  old  people  should  be  taken  advantage  of, 
and  systematic  investigations  should  be  made  on  the  rela- 
tion of  intestinal  microbes  to  precocious  old  age,  and  on 
the  influence  of  diets  which  prevent  intestinal  putrefaction 
in  prolonging  life  and  maintaining  the  forces  of  the  body. 
It  can  onlv  be  in  the  future,  near  or  remote,  that  we  shall 


obtain  exact  information  upon   what  is  one  of  the  chief 
problems  of  humanity. 

In  the  meantime,  those  who  wish  to  preserve  their  intel- 
ligence as  long  as  possible  and  to  make  their  cycle  of  life 
as  complete  and  as  normal  as  is  possible  under  present 
conditions,  must  depend  on  general  sobriety  and  on  habits 
conforming  to  the  rules  of  rational  hygiene. 




Reply  to  critics  who  deny  the  simian  origin  of  man — 
Actual  existence  of  rudimentary  organs — Reductions  in  the 
structure  of  the  organs  of  sense  in  man — Atrophy  of  Jacob- 
son  's  organ  and  of  the  Harderian  gland  in  the  human  race 

SEVERAL  critics  of  The  Nature  of  Man  have  protested 
against  my  theory  of  the  simian  origin  of  man.  Some  of 
these  found  my  arguments  unsatisfactory  and  unconvinc- 
ing. Others  have  attacked  generally  my  suggestion  that 
some  anthropoid  had  been  suddenly  transformed  to  a 
primitive  human  being. 

It  is  true  that  so  long  as  we  have  little  palaeontolo- 
gical  evidence  as  to  the  actual  descent  of  man,  we  cannot 
discuss  the  subject  without  the  aid  of  hypotheses.  I  think, 
however,  that  recent  additions  to  knowledge  confirm  the 
theory  of  the  descent  of  man  in  a  way  that  ought  to  influ- 
ence the  most  resolute  opponents.  I  have  in  mind  chiefly 
the  arguments  supplied  by  the  embryology  of  anthropoid 
apes,  and  by  the  investigation  of  their  blood.  None  the 
less,  there  are  still  many  authors  who  maintain  their  oppo- 
sition. One  of  my  critics,  Dr.  Jousset,1  enumerates  certain 
differences  in  the  structure  of  the  skeleton  in  man  and  apes, 
and  concludes  that  these  radically  separate  man  from  apes. 
1  La  nature  hitmaine  et  la  philosophic  optimiste,  Paris,  1904. 


No  one  has  ever  doubted  that  man  was  not  identical  in 
structure  with  the  anthropoid  apes,  or  that  he  differs  from 
th^m  in  several  characters  of  the  skeleton  and  of  many 
other  organs.  The  differences,  however,  do  not  justify  any 
radical  separation  of  the  two.  The  unusual  length  of  arm, 
upon  which  my  opponents  throw  so  much  weight,  is  in 
harmony  with  the  mode  of  life  of  apes,  as  these  climb  on 
trees  and  walk  on  all  four  limbs.  The  difference  between 
apes  and  Europeans  in  length  of  arm  is  certainly  consider- 
able, but  is  much  less  in  the  case  of  some  lower  races,  such 
as  the  Veddahs.  In  the  Akkas  of  Central  Africa,  the  arms 
are  so  long  that  the  hands  nearly  reach  the  knees.  The 
foetus  of  Europeans  also  shows  an  unusual  length  of  arm, 
probably  an  ancestral  feature.  It  is  only  after  birth  that 
the  arms  become  relatively  shorter. 

All  the  other  characters  different  in  man  and  the  apes, 
are  equally  secondary.  On  the  other  hand,  just  as  apes 
differ  amongst  themselves,  so  also,  the  different  races  show 
differences  often  strongly  marked.  M.  Michaelis,1  in  a 
comparative  study  of  the  muscular  systems  of  monkeys, 
has  made  known  many  details  of  the  musculature  in  the 
orang-outan  and  the  chimpanzee,  and  it  appears  from  his 
investigations  that,  although  there  are  some  differences 
between  these  two  apes,  they  are  both  closely  similar  to  man . 

There  are  many  variations  in  the  muscular  structure  of 
man,  and  these  find  parallels  in  the  muscles  of  apes.  This 
is  also  the  case  with  other  abnormalities  of  structure,  some 
of  which  resemble  the  condition  in  mammals  much  lower 
than  apes.  An  example  of  this  is  the  presence  of  addi- 
tional pairs  of  nipples,  arranged  symmetrically  on  the  sides 
of  the  chest  and  occasionally  found  in  human  beings.  A 
similar  abnormality  has  been  found  in  some  monkeys,  and 
1  Archiv.f.  Ana/,  u.  Physiol.,  Anatom.  Abtheil,  1903,  p.  205. 


the  best  explanation  of  such  an  occurrence  is  that  monkeys, 
like  man,  are  descended  from  mammals  which  possessed 
several  pairs  of  mammary  glands. 

The  large  number  of  abnormalities  and  rudimentary 
organs  which  may  be  found  in  man  affords  important 
evidence  in  favour  of  the  descent  of  man  from  lower 
animals.  Some  authors,  however,  have  tried  to  dispute 
this  view  and  even  deny  the  existence  of  rudimentary 
organs.  M.  Brettes,1  amongst  my  opponents,  has  brought 
together  most  facts  upon  this  matter,  with  the  object  of 
proving  that  such  organs  fulfil  some  function  indispensable 
to  the  body  and  bear  witness  to  the  existence  of  a  general 
plan  of  organisation.  My  opponent,  however,  confines 
himself  to  general  propositions,  laying  much  stress  on  a 
law  of  "the  subordination  of  organs"  without  proving 
that  rudimentary  organs  have  an  actual  function.  In  The 
Nature  of  Man  I  remarked  on  the  uselessness  of  the 
wisdom  teeth,  which  are  not  cut  until  long  after  childhood 
and  which  are  useless  in  mastication.  In  many  human 
beings  these  teeth  never  cut  through  the  gum,  and  their 
absence  is  no  disadvantage.  This  is  a  typical  case  of  a 
rudimentary  organ.  To  maintain  the  contrary  it  would  be 
necessary  to  prove  that  the  wisdom  teeth  fulfil  an  indis- 
pensable function  and  that  their  absence  was  in  some  way 
harmful  to  the  organ  ism.  No  one  has  been  able  to  show  this. 

The  mammary  glands  in  males  are  another  case  of  rudi- 
mentary organs.  The  function  of  these,  of  course,  is  well 
known  in  females,  but  it  is  only  in  the  rarest  cases  that 
they  are  active  in  males. 

The  organs  of  sense  supply  many  cases  of  rudimentary 
structures.  Animals  which  live  in  caves,  in  the  dark,  do 
not  discern  objects  by  sight,  and  in  these  cases  the  eyes  are 

1  Dunivers  et  la  vie,  p.  592. 


rudimentary.  It  is  quite  impossible  to  deny  the  existence 
of  rudimentary  organs.  They  are  extremely  important 
guides  to  us  in  our  investigation  of  the  past  history  of  the 
human  race.  The  comparative  study  of  the  organs  which 
are  rudimentary  in  man  and  more  or  less  well  developed  in 
lower  animals  is  of  fundamental  importance  in  the  problem 
of  our  origin. 

The  higher  apes,  or  anthropoids,  display  reduction  in 
some  parts  of  the  organs  of  sense.  The  organ  of  smell, 
for  instance,  is  much  less  developed  in  them  than  in  many 
other  animals.  Man  has  inherited  the  imperfect  condition 
of  this  organ,  and  his  sense  of  smell  is  much  less  developed 
than  that  of  mammals  which  are  lower  in  the  scale  of  life. 
Man,  however,  because  of  his  intelligence,  has  been  able 
to  tame  domestic  animals,  such  as  dogs,  ferrets,  and  pigs, 
and  to  make  use  of  their  acute  sense  of  smell  for  tracking 
game  or  obtaining  edible  plants.  The  imperfect  condition 
of  the  sense  of  smell  in  man  in  other  cases  is  well  re- 
placed by  his  mental  powers.  He  no  longer  recognises  the 
approach  of  an  enemy  by  the  sense  of  smell,  in  order  that 
he  may  take  flight,  because  he  has  better  means  of  defence 
than  those  of  animals.  It  is  not  surprising,  therefore,  that 
the  olfactory  apparatus  of  man  is  much  reduced  as  com- 
pared with  that  of  lower  mammals.  In  apes  and  man  the 
nasal  region  of  the  head  is  much  smaller  than  in  their 
mammalian  ancestors,  and  in  the  deep-lying  parts  of  the 
system  there  are  corresponding  differences.  Most 
mammals,  for  instance,  and  the  dog  in  particular,  have  four 
turbinal  bones,  the  purpose  of  which  is  to  increase  the 
surface  of  the  mucous  membrane  of  the  nose,  whilst  in 
man  there  are  only  three,  one  of  which  is  rudimentary. 

The  olfactory  apparatus  in  most  mammals  contains  a 
well-developed  portion  known  as  the  organ  of  Jacobson, 


the  probable  function  of  which  is  to  appreciate  the  flavour 
of  food  in  the  mouth.  In  man,  this  organ  is  in  a  rudi- 
mentary condition  and  cannot  fulfil  its  function,  as  it  is 
devoid  of  its  proper  nerve.  This  remnant,  now  useless, 
gives  us  information  as  to  the  evolution  of  the  organ  of 
smell  in  man.  In  the  human  foetus,  Jacobson's  organ  is 
not  only  better  developed  than  in  adult  man,  but  it  is  also 
provided  with  a  stout  nerve  trunk,  which  disappears  to- 
wards the  end  of  embryonic  life.  The  organ,  however, 
cannot  perform  any  olfactory  function.  The  human  foetus, 
moreover,  possesses  five  turbinals  which  later  on  become 
reduced  to  three,  and  of  these  only  two  develop  completely. 

The  history  of  the  evolution  of  the  organ  of  smell,  as  it 
has  been  made  out  by  comparative  anatomy  and  embry- 
ology, links  this  apparatus  in  man  with  the  corresponding 
organs  of  other  mammals  by  means  of  these  useless  rudi- 
ments, which,  however,  are  important  evidence  in  scien- 
tific theory. 

The  auditory  apparatus  also  has  become  reduced  in  man. 
Many  animals,  in  the  struggle  for  existence,  require  a  very 
acute  sense  of  hearing,  more  so  than  man  or  some  of  the 
most  intelligent  mammals.  We  have  all  seen  how  horses 
raise  their  ears  to  hear  better  when  there  is  the  slightest 
sound  near  them.  Monkeys  and  man  have  lost  this  power, 
and  man  sometimes  tries  to  supply  the  defect  by  artificial 
means.  When  a  lecturer,  for  instance,  is  not  speaking 
sufficiently  loud  some  of  the  audience  put  their  hands  to 
their  ears,  making  a  kind  of  trumpet  which  serves  to  catch 
the  sound.  The  human  external  ear  is  supplied  with 
muscles,  but  in  most  cases  these  are  too  feeble  to  move  it. 
In  very  rare  cases  persons  can  move  their  ears,  the  muscles 
inserted  to  the  shell  in  most  of  us  being  mere  rudiments  of 
those  that  existed  in  our  ancestors. 


In  the  organ  of  sight,  the  little  fold  in  the  inner  angle 
of  the  eye,  known  as  the  semilunar  fold,  is  of  special 
interest.  This  membrane  is  a  useless  vestige  of  a  struc- 
ture much  better  developed  in  lower  mammals.  In  the 
dog  it  is  present  as  a  small  third  eyelid,  supported  by  a 
special  cartilage  provided  with  a  secreting  gland,  known 
as  the  Harderian  gland.  In  birds,  reptiles  and  frogs,  the 
corresponding  structures  are  much  better  developed. 
Everyone  has  seen  the  delicate  membrane  which,  in  the 
case  of  a  bird,  may  shoot  out  from  the  inner  angle  of  the 
eye  and  cover  the  whole  of  the  exposed  part  of  the  eyeball 
(nictitating  membrane).  In  these  animals,  the  eye  is  pro- 
tected by  this  third  lid,  which  has  its  own  muscles.  As 
in  the  dog,  this  third  eyelid  of  birds  and  lower  vertebrates 
is  generally  provided  with  a  large  Harderian  gland,  which 
produces  a  liquid  secretion  like  tears. 

In  most  monkeys,  this  apparatus  is  much  reduced. 
Many  of  them  have  still  a  small  Harderian  gland  and  a 
weak  third  eyelid.  In  man,  as  I  have  already  said,  there 
are  only  vestiges  of  these  organs,  the  gland  being  almost 
atrophied  and  the  third  eyelid  represented  only  by  an  in- 
significant crescentic  fold.  In  the  lower  races  the  fold 
sometimes  contains  a  small  cartilage.  Giacomini  found  it 
twelve  times  in  sixteen  negroes,  whilst  in  548  white  people 
it  was  found  only  in  three  cases. 

The  interpretation  of  these  facts  is  not  doubtful.  This 
little  fold  is  the  last  vestige  in  use  of  an  organ  which  was 
useful  only  in  our  remote  ancestors. 

The  organs  of  reproduction  in  the  human  race  also  show 
a  number  of  rudiments.  There  remain  even  traces  of  & 
hermaphrodite  condition,  a  very  low  degree  of  organisa- 
tion, going  back  to  extremely  remote  ancestors.  The 
evidence  given  by  the  very  large  number  of  abnormalities 


that  are  found  fn  these  organs  makes  it  clear  that,  in  the 
long  period  of  the  evolution  of  the  human  race,  they  have 
been  subjected  to  a  series  of  modifications.  Thus,  for  in- 
stance, there  is  occasionally  present  in  women  a  form  of 
uterus  resembling  that  of  the  lower  mammals,  or  even  the 
double  uterus  of  marsupials. 

The  evolution  of  man  has  been  dominated  by  the  great 
development  of  the  brain  and  of  the  intelligence,  and  man, 
accordingly,  has  lost  many  organs  and  functions  which 
were  of  use  in  his  more  or  less  remote  ancestors. 



The  mental  character  of  anthropoid  apes — Their  muscular 
strength — Their  expression  of  fear-^The  awakening  of  latent 
instincts  of  man  under  the  influence  of  fear 

THE  facts  of  which  I  have  given  a  re'sume'  serve  to  show 
that  evolution  always  leaves  definite  traces  indicating  its 
successive  stages  in  the  form  of  rudiments.  It  is  probable, 
therefore,  that  the  pre-human  mental  functions  or  psycho- 
physiological  qualities,  which  have  so  long  a  history 
behind  them,  have  also  left  more  or  less  appreciable  traces. 
These,  however,  must  be  more  difficult  to  find  than  rudi- 
mentary organs  which  can  be  made  visible  by  dissection. 

If  we  turn  first  to  the  animals  most  nearly  related  to 
man,  we  find  that  the  living  anthropoid  apes  show  in  the 
clearest  way  their  close  relationship  with  the  human  race, 
and  suggest  that  their  kinship  with  our  remoter  ancestors 
must  be  even  greater. 

The  anthropoid  apes  alive  to-day  are  animals  inhabit- 
ing chiefly  virgin  forests,  and  feeding  on  fruits  and  shoots, 
although  they  do  not  despise  eggs  or  even  little  birds.  To 
satisfy  their  wants,  they  climb  with  the  greatest  ease,. 
Orang-outans  and  chimpanzees  climb  slowly  and  carefully, 
whilst  -gibbons  show  a  greater  agility  and  more  perfect 
acrobatic  power.  They  may  be  seen  throwing  themselves 


from  branch  to  branch  across  spaces  of  forty  feet  with 
the  greatest  precision.  They  play  at  the  top  of  very  tall 
trees,  hardly  grasping  the  branches  through  which  they 
pass,  making  leaps  of  from  twelve  to  eighteen  feet  for 
hours  together  with  little  apparent  exertion. 

To  give  an  idea  of  the  dexterity  and  swiftness  of 
gibbons,  Martin  took  the  case  of  a  female  which  he  ob- 
served in  captivity.  One  time  she  hurled  herself  from  a 
perch  across  a  space  at  least  twelve  feet  wide,  against  a  win- 
dow which  one  would  have  thought  would  have  been 
immediately  broken.  To  the  great  surprise  of  the  spec- 
tators it  was  not  broken.  The  gibbon  seized  with  her  hands 
the  narrow  board  between  the  panes,  and  then  in  an  instant 
twisted  herself  round  and  jumped  back  to  the  cage  she  had 
left,  performing  this  manoeuvre  with  great  strength  and 
the  most  marvellous  precision. 

The  muscular  force  implied  in  the  above  narrative  is 
possessed  by  all  the  anthropoid  apes.  Battel,  an  English 
sailor  who  gave  the  first  description  of  the  gorilla  in  the 
beginning  of  the  i7th  century,  stated  that  the  strength  of 
that  animal  was  so  great  that  ten  men  could  hardly  master 
an  adult  specimen.  The  other  anthropoids,  although  not  so 
strong  as  the  gorilla,  nevertheless  display  surprising  force. 

Edouard,  the  young  male  chimpanzee  which  I  used  in 
my  experiments  on  syphilis,  struggled  so  much  at  the 
least  touch  that  it  took  four  men  to  master  him.  I  had  to 
give  up  allowing  him  to  leave  his  cage  because  there  was 
no  way  of  getting  him  back  to  it.  Even  quite  young 
chimpanzees,  females  not  yet  two  years  old,  cannot  be 
handled  easily.  Although  they  are  very  friendly,  my 
specimens  used  to  resist  with  all  their  strength  when  it  was 
necessary  to  put  them  back  in  their  cages  for  the  night. 
Two  men  had  much  ado  to  shut  them  up. 


Notwithstanding  this  great  muscular  force,  the  anthro- 
poid apes  are  cowardly.  They  have  no  idea  of  their 
strength,  but  fly  from  the  approach  of  the  slightest  imagined 
danger.  My  young  chimpanzees,  although  their  teeth  and 
muscles  were  already  formidable  weapons,  showed  the 
greatest  fear  when  I  put  with  them  animals  even  so  weak 
and  harmless  as  guinea-pigs,  pigeons  and  rabbits.  Mice 
frightened  them  very  much  at  first,  and  it  took  them  a  con- 
siderable time  before  they  got  over  their  fear  of  so  insig- 
nificant an  enemy.  When  living  in  a  state  of  nature  the 
anthropoid  apes  scarcely  ever  assume  the  offensive. 
"  Though  possessed  of  immense  strength,"  wrote  Huxley,1 
"  it  is  rare  for  the  Orang  to  attempt  to  defend  itself,  espe- 
cially when  attacked  with  fire-arms.  On  such  occasions 
he  endeavours  to  hide  himself,  or  to  escape  along  the  top- 
most branches  of  the  trees,  breaking  off  and  throwing  down 
the  boughs  as  he  goes."  Savage2  wrote  of  chimpanzees 
that  "they  do  not  appear  ever  to  act  on  the  offensive,  and 
seldom,  if  ever  really,  on  the  defensive."  When  a  female 
was  surprised  on  a  tree  with  her  young  ones  "her  first 
impulse  was  to  descend  with  great  rapidity  and  make  off 
into  the  thicket."3 

The  gorilla,  the  strongest  and  most  ferocious  of  the 
apes,  has  sometimes  been  observed  to  take  the  offensive. 
Savage,  quoted  by  Huxley,  said  that  "  they  are  exceedingly 
ferocious,  and  always  offensive  in  their  habits,  never  run- 
ning from  man,  as  does  the  chimpanzee.  The  females 
and  young,  at  the  first  cry,  quickly  disappear.  He  (the 
male)  then  approaches  the  enemy  in  great  fury,  pouring 
out  his  horrid  cries  in  quick  succession."  4  Only  males" 

1  Huxley,  Man's  Place  in  Nature.     Collected  Essays,  vol.  vii,  p.  54. 

2  Ibid.,  p.  60.  3  Ibid.,  p.  62.  4  Ibid.,  p.  67. 


take  the  offensive,  nor  can  this  be  of  frequent  occurrence, 
as  one  of  the  most  recent  observers,  Koppenfels,1  states 
that  "the  gorilla  never  attacks  man  spontaneously;  he 
tries  to  avoid  him,  and,  as  a  rule,  takes  to  flight  as  soon  as 
he  sees  a  man,  uttering  peculiar  guttural  cries." 

Which  of  these  characters  are  preserved  in  the  human 
race  ?  Man  is  naturally  feebler  and  less  of  a  gymnast  than 
the  great  apes,  but  his  disposition  is  cowardly.  One  of 
the  earliest  signs  of  mental  activity  in  an  infant  is  the  fear 
of  surrounding  circumstances.  The  smallest  change  in  its 
balance  or  its  being  put  in  a  bath  cause  it  to  show  signs  of 
real  terror.  Later  on,  it  is  alarmed  when  it  sees  any  kind 
of  animal,  exactly  in  the  fashion  of  a  young  chimpanzee. 
The  most  harmless  spider  is  enough  to  frighten  it. 

Although  mental  culture  subdues  fear  to  a  large  extent, 
fear  reveals  itself  more  or  less  strongly  from  time  to  time, 
and  it  is  on  such  occasions  that  we  may  find  in  the  human 
being  psychological  relics  of  his  ancestors.  An  analysis 
of  fear  is  of  special  interest. 

The  first  result  of  the  emotion  of  fear  is  flight.  Con- 
sciousness of  danger  sets  our  limbs  in  motion,  and  our 
instinctive  desire  to  escape  displays  itself  even  when  flight 
is  more  dangerous  than  what  we  wish  to  avoid.  At  the 
first  alarm  of  fire  in  a  public  building,  people  rush  towards 
the  exits  and  in  so  doing  often  perish  from  their  wish  to 
escape.  Even  in  the  extreme  of  terror,  the  desire  of  flight 
is  one  of  the  earliest  impulses.  Mosso,  a  well-known 
Italian  physiologist,  in  a  monograph  on  fear,  relates  that 
when  a  Calabrian  brigand  was  sentenced  to  death  "  he 
uttered  a  sharp  cry,  heart-rending  and  terrible,  looked 
around  him  as  if  he  were  eagerly  seeking  for  something, 
and  then  stepped  backwards  as  if  to  fly,  and  threw  himself 
1  M£n£gaux,  Les  Manmmiferes,  p.  24. 


against  the  wall  of  the  court,  writhing,  with  arms  out- 
stretched, scratching  at  the  wall  as  if  he  were  trying  to 
break  through  it." 

Although  in  such  a  case  it  was  futile  and  often  is 
harmful,  the  instinct  of  flight  from  danger  is  inherited 
from  ancestors  from  a  time  when  it  served  to  save  life. 
Attempts  to  escape  are  not  the  only  signs  of  fear.  There 
is  often  a  trembling  fit  which  would  make  flight  impos- 
sible. In  Mosso's  case  of  the  Calabrian  brigand,  "after 
his  struggles,  cries  and  contortions,  he  fell  on  the  ground 
in  a  motionless  heap,  like  a  wet  rag ;  he  became  pale  and 
trembled  more  than  I  have  seen  any  other  person  tremble  ; 
his  muscles  seemed  changed  into  a  soft  and  quivering 
jelly."  This  condition  of  trembling  inertia  is  another 
legacy  from  animals.  Quivering  of  the  muscles  often 
manifests  itself  in  terrified  animals.  Darwin  1  wrote  of  it, 
"trembling  is  of  no  service,  often  of  much  disservice, 
and  cannot  at  first  have  been  acquired  through  the  will, 
and  then  rendered  habitual  in  association  with  any 
emotion."  The  phenomenon  seemed  to  him  obscure  and 
difficult  to  explain,  a  view  shared  by  Mosso.  The  trem- 
bling of  the  musculature  of  the  body  is  a  generalised  and 
exaggerated  form  of  the  movements  of  the  cutaneous 
muscles  in  the  condition  known  popularly  as  "goose- 
skin."  The  latter,  however,  is  a  relic  of  an  adaptation 
useful  to  some  animals.  The  hedgehog  rarely  takes  to 
flight  at  the  approach  of  danger,  but  stands  still,  and  using 
strongly  developed  muscles,  rolls  itself  into  a  ball.  In 
birds  and  many  mammals,  the  muscles  of  the  skin  cause 
erection  of  the  feathers  or  hairs.  These  movements  often 
are  performed  during  fright,  and  according  to  Darwin, 

1  Darwin,  Expression  of  the  Emotions  in  Man  and  Animals,  1873, 
p.  67. 

O   2 


serve  not  only  to  warm  the  skin,  but  sometimes  to  make 
the  animal  appear  larger  and  more  terrifying  to  enemies. 

Fear  and  cold  alike  cause  contraction  of  the  superficial 
blood-vessels,  and,  in  man,  excite  the  contraction  of  the 
minute  rudimentary  muscles  inserted  to  the  roots  of  the 
hairs.  "  Goose-skin  "  is  caused  by  the  contraction  of  these 
muscles,  the  condition  being  a  functional  rudiment,  no 
longer  serving  to  warm  the  skin  nor  to  make  the  body 
appear  larger.  In  a  few  exceptional  cases,  "goose-skin" 
can  be  produced  voluntarily.  In  the  normal  condition, 
the  rudimentary  cutaneous  muscles  of  man  are  immobile, 
and  it  requires  some  special  stimulation  to  set  them  in 

Fear,  which  is  occasionally  able  to  excite  the  contrac- 
tion of  the  involuntary  muscles,  also  stimulates  other 
muscles  against  the  will.  Under  the  influence  of  emotions 
that  powerfully  affect  the  nervous  system,  and  particularly 
under  that  of  fear,  contractions  of  the  bladder  and  intes- 
tines may  be  so  violent  that  it  is  impossible  to  prevent  the 
voiding  of  their  conte'nts.  Accidents  of  this  kind  are  not 
infrequent  in  the  case  of  youthful  candidates  at  examina- 
tions. Mosso  relates  of  a  friend,  a  volunteer  in  the  war 
of  1866,  that  he  was  seized  with  terror  during  a  battle  and 
that  the  utmost  efforts  of  his  will  failed  to  make  his  body 
endure  the  terrible  spectacle. 

The  involuntary  action  of  the  bladder  and  intestines 
during  fear  is  a  legacy  from  animals.  The  phenomenon  is 
common  in  dogs  and  monkeys.  Chimpanzees,  when  laid 
hold  of,  discharge  their  urine  and  faeces.  At  Madeira  I 
had  an  unusually  cowardly  Cercopithecus  monkey  which 
when  at  all  alarmed  discharged  the  contents  of  the  rectum. 
Quite  possibly  such  a  mechanism  was  useful  for  the  pre- 
servation of  the  individual.  The  emission  of  various  kinds 
of  excretions  is  of  use  in  the  struggle  for  existence.  In 


that  way  the  fox  drives  the  badger  from  its  earth  and  takes 
possession  of  it,  whilst  polecats  and  skunks  defend  them- 
selves against  more  powerful  carnivorous  animals  by  dis- 
charging on  them  foetid  secretions. 

Instinctive  fear  is  therefore  a  very  powerful  stimulant, 
awakening  functions  which  are  rudimentary  and  almost 
completely  extinct.  Sometimes  it  sets  in  operation 
mechanisms  which  have  long  been  paralysed.  Pausanias 
gives  an  example  of  a  dumb  young  man  who  recovered 
his  speech  when  he  was  terrified  by  seeing  a  lion.  Hero- 
dotus relates  that  the  son  of  Crcesus,  who  was  dumb,  on 
seeing  a  Persian  about  to  kill  his  father,  cried  out :  "  You 
must  not  kill  Crcesus,"  and  from  that  time  onwards  was 
able  to  talk.  These  ancient  narratives  have  been  con- 
firmed by  many  modern  observations.  A  woman,  for 
instance,  who  had  been  dumb  for  several  years,  on  seeing 
a  fire,  was  terrified  and  cried  out  suddenly  "  Fire  !  "  after 
which  her  speech  was  restored.  Such  are  cases  of  the 
awakening  of  a  function  which  has  been  arrested  only 
for  several  years.  But  fear  can  bring  into  activity  other 
mechanisms  which  have  been  inactive  from  time  im- 

Many  different  kinds  of  animals  can  swim  instinctively. 
This  is  true  in  the  case  of  most  birds  and  mammals. 
There  are  some  species  which  show  a  repugnance  to  water, 
but  none  the  less  swim  well  enough  if  they  are  thrown 
into  it.  Cats  shun  water  as  much  as  possible,  but,  none  the 
less,  can  swim  quite  easily.  Historians  relate  that  Han- 
nibal had  great  difficulty  in  getting  his  elephants  to  cross 
the  Rhone.  Some  females  were  ferried  across  first,  upon ' 
which  the  other  elephants  threw  themselves  into  the  water 
to  pursue  them  and  swam  across  the  river  without  any 
difficulty  (Lentheric,  Le  Rhone,  1892,  p.  81). 

The  lower  monkeys  can  swim  without  being  taught,  but 


the  anthropoid  apes  have  lost  this  power,  and  man  also  is 
without  it.  M.  Volz1  states  that  the  different  species  of 
gibbons  which  live  in  Sumatra  are  separated  by  rivers. 
Their  inability  to  swim  makes  these  a  complete  barrier. 
It  is  probable  that  the  lower  races,  in  this  respect,  are 
better  endowed  than  we  are.  It  is  said  that  in  the  case  of 
negroes,  children  run  to  the  sea  or  to  rivers  almost  as  soon 
as  they  leave  the  cradle,  and  learn  to  swim  almost  as 
quickly  as  to  walk.2  In  the  case  of  white  people,  many 
find  it  very  difficult  to  learn  to  swim,  and  it  is  at  least 
certain  that  swimming  is  not  instinctive  as  in  the  case  of 
our  animal  ancestors.  Christmann,3  the  author  of  a  treatise 
on  swimming,  states  that  the  reason  of  man  is  a  worse 
guide  than  the  infallible  instinct  of  the  animal.  Fear  is 
able  to  stifle  reason  and  to  allow  the  instinct  to  come  into 
play.  It  is  known  that  children  or  adults  may  be  taught  to 
swim  by  throwing  them  into  the  water.  Under  the  influence 
of  fear,  the  instinctive  mechanism  inherited  from  animals 
awrakens,  and  man  soon  becomes  a  swimmer.  There  are 
some  teachers  of  swimming  who  use  this  method  success- 
fully. I  have  myself  known  an  individual  who  learnt  the 
art  in  that  way,  and  M.  Troubat,  librarian  at  the  Inter- 
national Library,  has  informed  me  that  one  of  his  friends, 
a  journalist  who  died  at  Noyon  several  years  ago,  bathed 
in  the  Seine  one  evening  at  Neuilly  when  he  could  not  swim. 
Unexpectedly  finding  himself  beyond  his  depth,  a  sudden 
movement  of  fear  saved  him.  Since  then,  he  said,  he 
knew  how  to  swim. 
Just  as  there  are  cases  in  which  terror  provokes  flight, 

1  Biologisckes  Centralblatt,  1904,  p.  475. 

2  J.  de  Fontenelle,  Nouveau  manuel  complet  des  nageurs,  Paris,  1837, 
p.  2. 

3  La  natation  et  les  bains,  Paris,  1887. 


and  others  in  which  it  causes  an  arrest  of  motion,  so  also 
fear  may  do  a  disservice  to  a  swimmer.  Those  who 
employ  fear  as  a  means  of  teaching  to  swim,  know  that 
they  must  intervene  if  there  is  real  danger.  It  is  true,  none 
the  less,  that  up  to  a  certain  point  fear  can  awaken  func- 
tions which  have  been  atrophied  for  numberless  genera- 
tions, and  that  we  can  learn  from  it  something  as  to  the 
evolution  of  the  human  race. 



Fear  as  the  primary  cause  of  hysteria — Natural  somnam- 
bulism— Doubling  of  personality — Some  examples  of  som- 
nambulists— Analogy  between  somnambulism  and  the  life 
of  anthropoid  apes — The  psychology  of  crowds — Importance 
of  the  investigation  of  hysteria  for  the  problem  of  the  origin 
of  man 

THE  study  of  fear  is  interesting  in  other  respects  than  those 
with  which  I  have  been  dealing.  It  is  also  a  primary  cause 
of  the  obscure  and  complicated  phenomena  of  hysteria. 

Thus,  for  instance,  amongst  twenty-two  hysterical  women 
observed  by  Georget1  the  primary  causes  were  :  terror,  13 
cases ;  extreme  grief,  7  cases ;  extreme  annoyance,  one  case. 
A  patient  of  M.  Pitres,  of  Bordeaux,  first  exhibited  hysteria 
after  being  extremely  terrified.  A  man  with  a  tame  bear 
had  come  to  the  village.  The  patient  went  to  see  the  per- 
formance and  elbowed  her  way  through  the  crowd  until 
she  got  to  the  front  row.  The  bear,  whilst  dancing,  passed 
so  close  that  its  cold  muzzle  touched  the  cheek  of  the  young 
girl.  Marie — for  that  was  the  patient's  name — was  terri- 
fied. She  ran  quickly  home,  and  almost  on  her  arrival 
fell  on  her  bed  in  an  attack  of  convulsion  and  extreme 
delirium.  Since  then  the  attacks  have  been  repeated  many 
times,  and  the  delirium  associated  with  them  always  turns 
upon  Ihe  terror  caused  by  the  bear  touching  her. 

1  Quoted  by  M.  Pitres  in  Lffons  diniqites  sur  FhystMe,  1891,  vol.  i. 


A  hysterical  woman  at  the  Salpe'triere  is  haunted  by 
terrifying  dreams.  She  thinks  someone  is  trying  to  murder 
her,  or  to  cut  her  throat,  or  that  she  is  falling  into  water, 
and  she  keeps  crying  for  help.1 

Some  of  the  most  curious  phases  of  hysteria  are  the  para- 
doxical and  extraordinary  cases  of  so-called  natural  som- 
nambulism, in  which  the  patients,  whilst  asleep,  perform 
all  sorts  of  acts  of  which  they  remember  nothing  in  their 
waking  hours.  Cases  of  duplication  of  personality  are 
also  known,  in  which  the  patients  live  in  two  different 
states  without,  in  one  of  these,  having  the  slightest  remem- 
brance of  what  takes  place  in  the  other.  One  of  the  most 
curious  observations  was  that  of  the  somnambulist  who 
became  enceinte  whilst  in  her  second  state.  In  her  first, 
or  normal  condition,  she  was  ignorant  of  the  reason  of  her 
physical  changes,  although  in  the  second  state  she  knew 
about  it  quite  well  and  spoke  freely  of  it  (Pitres,  .op.  cit.  II, 


In  the  state  of  natural  somnambulism  the  patients  gene- 
rally reproduce  the  normal  acts  of  their  daily  life  which 
they  have  acquired  the  habit  of  performing  unconsciously. 
Artisans  devote  themselves  to  their  manual  work,  semp- 
stresses begin  to  sew,  maid  servants  brush  shoes  or  clothes, 
lay  the  table  and  so  forth.  Educated  persons  devote  them- 
selves to  intellectual  work  to  which  they  are  accustomed. 
Clergymen  have  been  known  to  compose  their  sermons  in 
the  somnambulistic  condition,  and  to  read  them  over  to 
correct  mistakes  in  style  or  in  spelling. 

However,  besides  somnambulists  who  during  slumber 
simply  repeat  the  usual  acts  of  their  life,  there  are  others 
who  do  special  things  to  which  they  are  unaccustomed. 

1  Bourneville  et  Regnard,  Iconographie  photographique  de  la  Sal- 
pttriere,  1879-1880,  vol.  iii,  p.  50. 


It  is  these  cases  which  are  most  interesting  from  my  point 
of  view.  I  shall  take  one  case  which  has  been  specially 
well  reported.  A  hysterical  patient,  a  girl  of  24  years  of 
age,  was  admitted  as  an  in-patient  to  the  hospital  Laennec. 
One  Sunday,  she  got  up  about  one  o'clock  in  the  morning. 
The  night  watchman,  who  was  alarmed,  went  for  the  night 
doctor,  who  witnessed  the  following  scene.  "The  patient 
went  to  the  staircase  leading  to  the  nurses'  quarters,  then 
suddenly  turned  round  and  walked  towards  the  wash- 
house.  The  door  of  that  being  closed,  she  then  groped 
for  a  time  and  turned  towards  the  women's  dormitory  in 
which  she  had  formerly  slept.  She  went  up  to  the  top  of 
the  house  where  this  dormitory  was,  and  when  she  got  on 
the  landing,  opened  a  window  leading  to  the  roof,  went 
out  of  the  window,  walked  along  the  gutter,  under  the 
horrified  eyes  of  the  nurse  who  followed  her  and  who  did 
not  dare  to  speak  to  her,  went  in  again  by  another  window 
and  went  down  the  stairs."  "  It  was  at  this  moment  that 
I  saw  her,"  said  the  night  doctor;  "  she  was  walking  noise- 
lessly, her  gait  was  automatic,  her  arms  hanging  by  her 
sides,  a  little  bent,  the  head  erect  and  fixed,  her  hair 
disordered,  her  eyes  wide  open;  she  seemed  like  some 
strange  apparition."1  This  is  obviously  the  case  of 
a  hysterical  subject,  who  in  a  normal  condition  was 
not  accustomed  to  climb  upon  roofs  and  walk  along  the 

Another  observation,  reported  by  Charcot,  related  to  a 
young  man,  seventeen  years  old,  the  son  of  a  large  manu- 
facturer, and  of  good  address.  Tired  out  by  working  for 
his  final  examination,  he  had  gone  to  bed  early.  Some 
time  later  he  rose  from  the  bed  in  his  college  dormitory, 

1  Stephanie  Feinkind,   Du  somnambulisme  dit  naturel,  Paris,    1893, 


went  out  by  a  window,  and  without  accident  climbed  on 
the  roof  and  took  a  long  and  dangerous  walk  along  the 
gutters.  He  was  awakened  before  any  accident  occurred 
(Feinkind,  p.  70). 

A  case  observed  by  Dr.  Mesnet  and  M.  Mottet  was  still 
more  interesting.  A  lady  thirty  years  old  and  extremely 
hysterical  got  out  of  bed  in  the  night,  "dressed  herself, 
completed  her  toilet  without  help,  removed  the  furniture 
in  her  way  without  stumbling  against  it.  She  was  in- 
different and  idle  by  day,  but  strenuous  at  night  in  perform- 
ing the  most  varied  acts.  I  have  seen  her  walking  about 
in  her  rooms,  opening  doors,  going  down  to  the  garden, 
leaping  on  seats  with  the  utmost  agility,  running  about, 
in  fact  doing  all  these  things  much  better  than  in  her 
waking  hours,  in  which  she  got  about  only  slowly  and  with 
aid"  (Feinkind,  p.  84). 

Horst  has  related  an  extraordinary  incident  which  took 
place  in  the  sixteenth  century.  "A  soldier  walked  in  his 
sleep  to  a  window,  and  with  the  help  of  a  rope  climbed  a 
high  tower,  secured  a  jackdaw's  nest  with  its  young  birds, 
and  regained  his  bed,  where  he  remained  asleep  until  the 
morning."1  Unfortunately  there  are  not  sufficiently  de- 
tailed facts  regarding  this  incident,  and  for  fully  described 
cases  we  must  return  to  modern  times.  Dr.  Guinon  has 
related  one  case  in  ample  detail.  A  man  thirty-four  years  of 
age,  by  occupation  an  interpreter,  was  taken  into  hospital 
for  hysterical  attacks.  "  One  night  soon  after  he  came  under 
the  care  of  the  physicians,  this  patient,  towards  one  o'clock 
in  the  morning,  suddenly  arose  from  bed,  threw  open  a 
window  and  jumped  across  the  sill  into  the  courtyard  of 
the  hospital.  The  attendants  on  duty  ran  after  him,  and 
saw  him  hurrying  away,  undressed  and  carrying  a  pillow 
1  Dictionnaire  des  sciences  medicates,  1821,  vol.  lii,  p.  119. 


in  his  arms.  He  traversed  a  series  of  gardens  and  walks, 
with  the  topography  of  which  he  was  unacquainted,  climbed 
a  ladder  and  got  on  the  roof  of  the  hydrotherapeutic  estab- 
lishment, up  and  down  which  he  proceeded  to  run  with  the 
greatest  agility.  Sometimes  he  stopped  in  his  flight  and 
rocked  the  pillow  he  was  carrying,  kissing  and  soothing  it 
as  if  it  were  a  child.  Then  he  retraced  the  route  he  had 
taken."  On  being  questioned  next  morning,  he  had  not 
the  faintest  remembrance  of  his  nocturnal  exploit.  "A 
similar  fit  came  on  him  five  or  six  times  "(Feinkind,  p.  108). 

The  same  patient,  "after  having  turned  over  in  bed 
several  times,  seized  a  pillow  and  held  it  to  his  breast.  He 
then  got  out  of  bed,  and,  in  his  nightgown,  ran  through  the 
dormitory  to  a  door  leading  to  the  lavatories.  He  opened 
the  door,  readily  but  with  violence,  and  entered  one  of  the 
closets.  Then,  still  holding  the  pillow  against  his  chest 
with  one  arm,  by  a  gymnastic  feat  both  difficult  and  dan- 
gerous, yet  which  he  performed  with  the  utmost  precision, 
using  his  feet  and  the  free  arm,  he  got  hold  of  the  edge  of 
the  frame  of  an  open  window,  through  which  he  swung 
himself  to  the  sill,  alighting  on  both  feet,  after  which, 
preserving  the  pillow  carefully  from  contact  or  shocks,  he 
jumped  to  the  ground  (the  infirmary  ward  was  on 
the  ground  floor).  He  then  ran  quickly  to  the  opposite 
corner  of  the  courtyard,  passing  the  whole  length  of  the 
great  building  at  full  speed,  holding  the  pillow  carefully. 
By  a  path  which  led  round  the  building,  he  reached  a 
corner  where  there  was  a  tower  supporting  a  great  water- 
tank.  A  kind  of  metallic  ladder,  placed  almost  vertically 
and  with  rounded  steps,  led  up  the  side  of  the  tower  to 
a  sort  of  observation-landing  which  at  one  point  was  adja- 
cent to  the  edge  of  the  roof  of  the  bath-house. 

"  The  patient  set  himself  to  climb  this  ladder  without  any 


hesitation,  holding  on  by  his  free  hand  and  placing  his 
naked  feet  on  the  rounded  steps  with  extreme  precision. 
When  he  reached  the  nearest  point  to  the  roof  of  the  bath- 
house he  leapt  upon  that,  and  at  a  running  pace  climbed 
the  zinc  roof  to  the  crest,  looking  round  him  from  time 
to  time  to  see  if  his  imaginary  pursuers  were  near.  He 
ran  along  the  crest  which  was  so  narrow  that  his  feet 
had  to  be  placed  alternately  on  either  side  on  the  slopes 
of  the  steep-pitched  roof,  a  performance  so  dangerous  that 
none  of  the  officials  would  follow  him,  and  which  none  the 
less  he  performed  with  complete  assurance  and  without  a 
single  slip. 

' '  When  he  reached  the  middle  of  the  building  he  sat  down 
on  .the  crest  of  the  roof,  leaning  against  a  ventilating 
chimney.  He  then  took  the  pillow  which  he  had  been 
carrying  carefully,  placed  it  on  his  knees  with  a  corner 
against  his  shoulder,  and  began  to  rock  it  as  if  it  were  a 
child,  crooning  to  it,  stroking  it  with  his  hand  or  with  his 
cheek  that  he  pressed  gently  against  the  corner.  From 
time  to  time  his  eyebrows  contracted  and  his  looks  hard- 
ened, and  he  gazed  around  him  as  if  he  were  being  pursued 
or  watched,  then  gave  a  growl  of  rage,  and  took  to  flight 
again,  carrying  the  pillow  on  his  dangerous  path.  All  the 
time  he  kept  speaking,  but  we  could  not  hear  what  he 
said.  He  saw  nothing  that  was  not  in  his  dream;  he  did 
not  understand  when  his  name  was  called  aloud;  but  he 
could  hear,  for  at  the  slightest  sound  near  him  he  rushed 
off  again  as  if  his  pursuers  were  upon  him.  This  episode 
lasted  about  two  hours,  during  which  he  had  climbed  over 
all  the  roofs  in  the  vicinity,  defying  our  pursuit  of  him  ",. 
(Feinkind,  pp.  106-112). 

I  could  give  other  similar  cases,  but  I  think  that  I  have 
shown   sufficiently   that   man,    when   in   the  condition  of 


natural  somnambulism,  exhibits  qualities  that  he  does  not 
possess  in  the  normal  state,  becoming  strong,  adroit,  and 
a  good  gymnast,  like  his  anthropoid  ancestors.  The  close 
resemblance  between  the  manoeuvres  of  Martin's  gibbon, 
which  I  described  earlier  in  this  chapter,  and  the  dangerous 
exploits  of  some  sleep  walkers  is  most  striking. 

The  impulses  to  climb  on  roofs  and  poles,  to  run  along 
in  rain  gutters,  to  climb  a  tower  to  take  a  bird's  nest,  are 
characteristic  examples  of  the  instinctive  actions  of  climb- 
ing animals,  like  the  anthropoid  apes.  Dr.  Earth  l  defines 
somnambulism  as  "  a  dream  with  exaltation  of  the  memory 
and  automatic  action  of  the  nervous  centres,  without  volun- 
tary and  conscious  control."  "The  striking  exaltation  of 
the  memory  is  the  dominating  condition.  The  extreme 
exactness  of  the  memory  of  places  displayed  by  the  som- 
nambulist makes  us  understand  how  he  performs  his  noc- 
turnal wanderings,  doing  almost  without  the  aid  of  his 
senses  numberless  deeds  of  which  he  would  be  practically 
incapable  in  a  waking  condition."  However,  as  such  a 
patient  performs  new  acts  which  he  has  never  accom- 
plished before  in  his  own  individual  life,  we  must  suppose 
that  the  exaltation  of  memory  includes  extremely  ancient 
facts,  dating  perhaps  from  the  pre-human  period.  Man  has 
inherited  from  his  ancestors  a  number  of  mechanisms  of 
the  brain,  the  activity  of  which  is  inhibited  by  restraints 
which  have  been  developed  later.  Just  as  man  possesses 
mammary  glands  which  under  ordinary  conditions  cannot 
secrete  milk,  so  also,  in  his  brain,  there  are  contained 
groups  of  cells  which  are  inactive  in  the  normal  condition, 
but,  also,  just  as  in  some  exceptional  cases  man  and  the 
males  of  several  species  of  mammals  are  able  to  give  milk, 
so  also  in  abnormal  conditions  the  atrophied  mechanisms 
of  other  nervous  centres  begin  to  act. 

1  Du  Sommeil  non  nature  I,  Paris,  1886. 


The  secretion  of  milk  by  males  is  a  return  to  an  extremely 
ancient  condition  in  which  both  sexes  were  able  to  nourish 
the  young ;  so,  also,  the  gymnastic  feats  and  the  extraor- 
dinary strength  of  somnambulists  are  a  return  to  a  normal 
condition  much  less  remote  from  us  than  lactation  in  males. 

It  is  curious  to  find  that,  in  some  cases,  natural  som- 
nambulism is  associated  with  power  to  move  the  shell  of 
the  ear.  I  know  two  brothers,  who,  when  they  were  young, 
used  to  walk  in  their  sleep  in  the  most  typical  way.  One 
of  them,  a  chemist,  used  to  climb  on  a  high  cupboard,  or 
simply  walk  about  in  the  room.  The  other  brother,  a 
sailor,  in  a  fit  of  somnambulism,  climbed  to  the  top  mast 
of  a  sailing  ship.  These  brothers,  who  were  somnambu- 
lists, had  the  cutaneous  muscles  extremely  well  developed 
and  were  able  to  move  their  ears  voluntarily. 

In  this  case  the  abnormality  was  hereditary  in  the  family, 
and  the  two  daughters  of  one  of  the  brothers  were  also 
somnambulistic  and  had  control  over  the  muscles  of  the 
ears.  Here,  then,  is  a  case  of  the  simultaneous  recurrence 
of  two  characters  of  our  ancestors  :  mobility  of  the  ear  and 
agility  in  gymnastic  feats.  M.  Barth  characterises  the 
somnambulist  as  "a  living  automaton  in  whom  conscious 
will  is  for  the  time  being  destroyed."  According  to  him, 
the  somnambulist  "acts  at  the  suggestion  of  circum- 
stances, and  what  seem  most  extraordinary  in  what  he  does 
are  in  reality  instinctive  reactions."  This  description 
agrees  well  with  my  view  that  in  natural  somnambulism 
the  instincts  of  our  pre-human  ancestors  are  awakened,  in- 
stincts which  under  normal  conditions  are  latent  and  rudi- 

Sometimes,  under  the  stimulus  of  fear,  the  instinctive 
mechanism  of  swimming  is  awakened  in  man.  It  would  be 
extremely  interesting  to  know  if  a  similar  occurrence  took 
place  in  somnambulists.  I  have  been  unable  to  find  in 


literature  any  sufficient  facts  upon  this  subject.  I  can 
quote  only  one  case,  and  that  with  all  reserve,  which  was 
published  in  the  article  "  Somnambulism  "  in  the  Diction- 
naire  des  Sciences  Medicales.  "It  is  related  that  a  som- 
nambulist who  took  to  swimming  during  one  of  his  fits 
was  called  by  his  name  several  times,  and  became  so 
frightened  when  he  awoke  that  he  was  drowned."  It 
would  be  extremely  interesting  to  collect  more  numerous 
facts  on  the  instincts  shown  by  somnambulists. 

I  have  given  a  good  deal  of  attention  to  natural  som- 
nambulism with  the  idea  that  I  should  find  in  it  traits 
recalling  those  of  the  life  of  anthropoid  apes.  I  think  that 
the  extremely  varied  phenomena  of  hysteria  could  supply 
us  with  other  facts,  useful  in  investigating  the  psycho- 
physiological  history  of  man.  Perhaps  some  of  the  facts 
of  so-called  "lucidity"  which  are  well  established  could 
be  explained  as  the  awakening  of  special  sensations  atro- 
phied in  the  human  race,  but  present  in  animals.  It  is 
known  that  in  vertebrate  anatomy  organs  are  found  which 
have  the  structures  of  organs  of  sense,  but  which  are 
absent  or  quite  rudimentary  in  the  human  body.  On  the 
other  hand,  it  is  known  that  animals  perceive  some  pheno- 
mena of  the  surrounding  world,  for  the  perception  of  which 
man  has  no  organs  of  sense.  Fish,  for  instance,  appreciate 
gradations  in  the  depth  of  water,  birds  and  mammals  have 
a  sense  of  orientation  and  can  anticipate  changes  in  the 
weather  more  exactly  than  our  meteorological  science. 
When  under  the  influence  of  hysteria,  man  may  possibly 
be  able  to  recover  these  senses  of  our  remote  ancestors, 
and  to  know  things  of  which  he  is  ignorant  in  the  normal 

Hysteria  is  common  to  man  and  animals.  Amongst  the 
numerous  chimpanzees  which  I  have  owned,  several  have 
shown  signs  of  hysteria.  Some,  when  they  were  in  the 


slightest  degree  annoyed,  lay  on  the  ground,  screaming 
terribly,  and  rolling  about  like  children  in  a  fit  of  passion. 
One  young  chimpanzee  used  to  pull  out  its  hair  when  it 
was  in  a  fit  of  temper.  The  view  that  hysteria  is  a  relapse 
to  the  condition  of  our  animal  ancestors  is  supported  by 
the  conception  of  hysterical  phenomena,  suggested  by  Dr. 
Babinsky.1  This  well-known  neurologist  thinks  that  "the 
phenomena  of  hysteria  have  two  special  characters,  the  one 
being  that  they  can  be  reproduced  by  suggestion  in  some 
cases  with  the  most  complete  fidelity,  and  the  other  that 
they  can  disappear  under  the  sole  influence  of  persuasion." 
M.  Babinsky  thinks  that  "the  hysteric  patient  is  neither 
unconscious  nor  completely  conscious,  but  is  in  a  state  of 
special  consciousness."  In  my  opinion  the  latter  con- 
dition corresponds  to  the  state  of  mind  of  our  more  or 
less  remote  ancestors. 

Occasionally  a  man,  under  some  sudden  impulse,  falls 
into  a  condition  of  extreme  violence,  and,  being  unable  to 
control  himself,  commits  acts  of  which  he  repents  imme- 
diately afterwards.  It  is  the  custom  to  say  that  at  such 
times  the  brute  has  awakened  in  the  man.  This  is  more 
than  a  metaphor.  CProbably  some  nervous  mechanism 
from  a  remote  ancestor  has  come  into  action,  at  the  call 
of  some  stimulation.)  As  our  anthropoid  ancestors  and 
primitive  man  lived  in  tribes,  it  is  natural  that  when  men 
are  grouped  together,  certain  savage  instincts  should 
awaken.  In  this  connection  it  is  interesting  to  study  the 
psychology  of  crowds.  When  man  is  surrounded  by  a 
great  many  of  his  fellows,  he  becomes  particularly  respon- 
sive to  suggestion.  This  condition  is*  characterised  as 
follows  by  M.  G.  Le  Bon,2  the  author  of  a  study  on  the 

1  Conference  faite  d  la  Socittt  de  PInternat,  June  28th,  1906. 

2  The  Crowd:   a  Study  of  the  Popular  Mind.     English  translation, 
London,  1896. 



psychology  of  crowds  :  "  The  most  careful  observations 
seem  to  prove  that  an  individual  immerged  for  some  length 
of  time  in  a  crowd  in  action  soon  finds  himself — either  in 
consequence  of  the  magnetic  influence  given  out  by  the 
crowd,  or  from  some  other  cause  of  which  we  are  ignorant 
— in  a  special  state,  which  much  resembles  the  state  of 
fascination  in  which  the  hypnotised  individual  finds  him- 
self in  the  hands  of  the  hypnotiser.  The  activity  of  the 
brain  being  paralysed  in  the  case  of  the  hypnotised  subject, 
the  latter  becomes  the  slave  of  all  the  unconscious  activi- 
ties of  his  spinal  cord,  which  the  hypnotiser  directs  at  will. 
The  conscious  personality  has  entirely  vanished ;  will  and 
discernment  are  lost.  All  feelings  and  thoughts  are  bent 
in  the  direction  determined  by  the  hypnotiser"  (p.  11). 
Man,  under  the  influence  of  the  crowd,  gets  into  a  condi- 
tion like  that  of  a  hysterical  patient  and  displays  a  state  of 
mind  identical  with  that  of  our  ancestors.  "Moreover,  by 
the  mere  fact  that  he  forms  part  of  an  organised  crowd,  a 
man  descends  several  rungs  in  the  ladder  of  civilisation. 
Isolated,  he  may  be  a  cultivated  individual ;  in  a  crowd,  he 
is  a  barbarian — that  is,  a  creature  acting  by  instinct" 

(P-  13). 

It  is  quite  natural  to  find  relics  of  our  prehistoric  past 
in  all  kinds  of  hysterical  phenomena.  We  could  reach 
extremely  interesting  facts  regarding  the  tribal  and  sexual 
life  of  apes,  if  we  tried  to  compare  with  them  the  pheno- 
mena of  human  hysteria.  The.  passionate  gestures  which 
are  characteristic  of  some  hysterical  cases  could  probably 
be  explained  in  this  way  quite  simply,  and  the  wild  cries 
uttered  by  patienfe  in  acute  hysteria  would  be  similarly 

I  think  that  just  as  anatomists  seek  for  points  of  com- 
parison between  man  and  animals,  as  palaeontologists  make 


excavations  to  discover  the  buried  remains  of  creatures 
intermediate  between  man  and  apes,  so  also,  psychologists 
and  doctors  should  investigate  the  rudimentary  psycho- 
physical  functions  with  the  object  of  building  up  the  history 
of  the  evolution  of  our  psychical  life.  It  cannot  be  doubted 
that  in  this  branch  of  science  new  arguments  would  be 
found  to  support  the  already  well  founded  theory  of  the 
simian  origin  of  the  human  race. 

P  2 





Problem  of  the  species  in  the  human  race — Loss  of  indivi- 
duality in  the  associations  of  lower  animals — Myxomycetes 
and  Siphonophora — Individuality  in  Ascidians — Progress 
in  the  development  of  the  individual  living  in  a  society 

IN  the  following  pages  I  shall  try  to  reply  to  the  criticism 
on  The  Nature  of  Man  that  in  that  book  I  only  considered 
the  individual  without  thinking  of  the  interests  of 
society  or  of  the  race.  I  have  been  reproached  for  having 
lost  sight  of  the  truth  that  in  the  general  course  of  evolu- 
tion the  interests  of  the  individual  must  yield  to  the  higher 
interests  of  the  community.  It  was  asserted,  in  fact,  that 
by  advising  orthobiosis,  that  is  to  say,  the  most  complete 
cycle  of  human  life,  ending  in  extreme  old  age,  I  was 
suggesting  something  to  the  detriment  of  humanity  as  a 

This  objection  rests  on  a  misunderstanding  which  it  will 
be  interesting  to  clear  up.  I  think  that  the  complete 
development  of  the  individual  not  only  would  not  injure  the 
community  but  would  be  of  great  advantage  to  it.  More- 
over, we  must  not  lose  sight  of  the  fact  that  the  individual 
has  rights  which  must  not  be  ignored. 


In  the  attack  on  my  theory  many  facts  were  brought 
forward  which  show  that  in  the  animal  and  vegetable 
kingdoms  the  individual  is  always  sacrificed  to  the  advan- 
tage of  the  race.  There  is  no  doubt  as  to  this,  and  in  the 
course  of  this  book  I  have  given  exact  facts  bearing  on  it. 
I  instanced  plants  such  as  the  Agave  and  some  Crypto- 
gams which  die  as  soon  as  they  have  reproduced;  I  have 
also  spoken  of  the  small  female  round  worms  (Nematodd) 
which  are  brutally  torn  in  pieces  and  devoured  by  their 
progeny.  It  would  be  difficult  to  find  better  cases  of  the 
sacrifice  of  the  individual  to  the  species.  The  rule,  how- 
ever, does  not  apply  to  man,  who,  in  this  respect,  stands 
in  a  special  position. 

Since  the  arrival  of  man,  several  species  of  animals  have 
disappeared  from  the  earth.  Man  has  played  a  large  part 
in  the  destruction  of  the  Moa  (Aepyornis)  of  Madagascar, 
the  largest  member  of  the  class  of  birds.  He  destroyed 
the  Dodo  of  the  Island  of  Mauritius  and  Steller's  sea  cow 
(Rhytina  stelleri),  a  harmless  relative  of  the  Manatee,  from 
the  shores  of  the  Aleutian  Archipelago.  Man  is  about 
to  cause  the  extinction  of  several  species  of  harmful  carni- 
vorous animals,  such  as  the  wolf  and  the  bear,  and  possibly 
it  will  not  be  long  before  automobiles  have  replaced  the 
horse,  which  would  then  become  extremely  rare.  How- 
ever, although  he  has  destroyed  so  many  other  species, 
man  has  taken  good  care  of  himself.  The  progress  already 
made  by  civilisation  has  considerably  reduced  our  mor- 
tality. Every  year,  a  large  number  of  young  infants  are 
kept  alive  by  the  aid  of  hygiene  and  medicine.  The  de- 
crease of  war  and  of  assassination  has  also  played  a  part 
in  maintaining  the  race.  The  position  which  man  has 
acquired  in  the  world  makes  it  more  likely  that  what  we 
have  to  fear  is  too  great  an  increase  of  population,  and 


although  the  theory  of  Malthus  has  not  been  verified  in 
all  its  details,  it  is  still  true  that  man  could  multiply  on 
the  face  of  the  earth  too  abundantly.  It  is  already  clear 
that  almost  in  the  proportion  that  humanity  stops  the 
effusion  of  its  blood  in  war,  it  tends  to  limit  the  propaga- 
tion of  the  race. 

As  the  future  of  the  species  seems  to  be  safe,  it  is  natural 
to  consider  in  the  first  place  that  of  the  individual.  In  this 
respect  the  facts  of  general  biology  are  of  special  interest. 

Man  is  not  the  only  social  animal  on  the  earth.  Long 
before  his  appearance  other  living  beings  existed  in  or- 
ganised societies.  The  splendid  colonies  of  Siphonophora 
float  on  the  surface  of  the  seas,  whilst  in  the  ocean  depths 
there  are  societies  of  corals  of  extraordinary  variability, 
whilst  again,  on  land,  many  kinds  of  insects  live  in  highly 
organised  societies. 

This  social  life  has  been  developed  without  external 
assistance,  and  without  any  code  to  regulate  the  conduct 
of  the  individuals  united  for  a  common  purpose. 

It  will  be  interesting  to  give  a  slight  survey  of  the  funda- 
mental principles  of  such  societies ;  I  intend  to  draw  special 
attention  to  one  of  the  essential  points  in  the  societies 
of  animals,  hoping  to  elucidate  the  relations  between  the 
individuals  and  society. 

In  the  organisation  of  human  society  the  most  difficult 
points  are  the  extent  to  which  the  society  may  encroach  on 
the  individual  and  the  degree  to  which  the  individual  may 
preserve  his  rights  and  his  independence.  Disputes  on 
these  have  been  interminable,  and  I  do  not  propose  to 
discuss  the  theories  according  to  which  an  individual  must 
be  sacrificed  for  the  good  of  the  community  to  which  he 
belongs.  I  shall  limit  myself  to  reviewing  the  fate  of  the 
individuals  in  societies  of  beings  much  inferior  to  man. 


There  are  examples  of  societies  composed  of  many  in- 
dividuals, even  amongst  living  things  on  the  borderland 
between  the  animal  and  vegetable  kingdoms. 

There  may  be  found  in  woods,  on  dead  leaves  or  on 
decaying  timber,  minute  plants  resembling  tiny  mush- 
rooms. These  are  Myxomycetes,  and  the  visible  portions 
are  minute  sacs  filled  with  microscopical  rounded  bodies, 
known  as  spores.  When  one  of  the  spores  is  moistened, 
there  emerges  a  minute  organism  with  a  mobile  appendage 

FIG.  21. — Isolated  individuals 
of  a  Myxomycete. 

(After  Zopff.) 

a,  spore ;  b— •/,  escape  of  the 

Fio.  22.  —  Myxomycete  indi- 
viduals united  to  form  a  plas- 

(After  Zopff.) 

by  which  it  can  be  impelled  through  water.  A  drop  of 
water  on  a  leaf  or  on  a  fragment  of  timber  may  be  filled 
with  numbers  of  these  tiny  swimming  bodies  (Fig.  21). 
Their  free  life  as  individuals,  however,  is  of  brief  duration. 
When  they  come  into  contact,  their  bodies  fuse,  forming 
a  gelatinous  mass  which  may  be  quite  large  (Fig.  22), 
This  mass  is  called  a  plasmodium,  and  is  composed  of  a 
living  substance  which  can  move  slowly  over  leaves  and 
which  exhibits  streaming  movements  in  the  interior,  so 


that  the  whole  resembles  in  some  respects  the  lava  from  a 

The  plasmodia  may  be  regarded  as  societies  in  the  con- 
stitution of  which  the  individuality  of  the  members  has 
been  completely  sacrificed.  The  ideal  of  those  philoso- 
phers who  have  urged  that  man  should  renounce  his  indi- 
viduality and  merge  himself  in  the  community  has  been 
realised  in  the  fullest  way  at  the  lower  end  of  the  scale 
of  life,  at  an  epoch  inconceivably  remote  from  the  appear- 
ance of  the  human  race. 

Amongst  animals,  even  the  most  lowly,  there  are  no 
societies  in  which  the  members  are  sacrificed  so  completely 
to  the  whole.  Individuality  is  always  preserved  to  a 
greater  or  lesser  extent.  Consider  the  polyps,  colonies  of 
which  form  reefs  in  the  sea  and  may  even  become 
islands.  These  creatures  live  in  aggregations,  the  mem- 
bers of  which  are  incapable  of  living  an  independent 
life.  They  are  united  by  living  substance  and  resemble 
double  monsters,  such  as  Doodica  and  Radica,  who  were 
so  much  talked  of  some  years  ago  when  M.  Doyen  oper- 
ated upon  them.  The  peritoneal  cavities  of  these  twins 
were  in  free  communication,  and  the  blood-vessels  were 
united  so  that  the  blood  of  the  one  passed  freely  into  the 
body  of  the  other.  In  another  double  monster,  the  two 
Tscheck  girls,  Rosa  and  Josepha,  the  intestinal  tracts 
communicate,  both  leading  to  a  common  rectum.  In 
these,  who  are  still  alive,  the  peritoneum  is  joined  and 
there  is  a  single  urethra. 

In  the  case  of  the  coral  polyps,  the  fusion  of  the  indivi- 
duals of  the  colony  is  nearly  always  much  more  complete. 
Each  individual  has  its  own  mouth  and  stomach,  whilst  the 
other  organs  cannot  be  assigned  to  individuals  but  must 
be  regarded  as  common  to  the  whole. 


In  the  swimming  polyps  or  Siphonophora,  the  loss  of 
individuality  is  still  more  remarkable.  These  graceful  and 
transparent  creatures,  sometimes  large  in  size,  live  in  the 
sea  and  may  appear  on  its  surface  in  great  numbers.  They 
possess  many  whip-like  filaments  provided  with  tentacles, 
swimming  bells  and  stomachs.  There  can  be  no  doubt  as 
to  their  colonial  nature  (Fig.  23),  but  it  is  difficult  to 
decide  as  to  whether  each  piece  of  the 
colony,  each  swimming  bell,  stomach 
and  so  forth,  is  to  be  regarded  as  an 
individual  or  an  organ,  different  zoo- 
logists having  taken  different  views 
on  the  question.  One  interpretation 
is  that  colonial  life  has  brought  with 
it  such  modifications  that  of  each  in- 
dividual there  remains  only  a  single 
organ.  Some  individuals  have  been 
reduced  to  simple  stomachs,  attached 
to  the  central  stem,  whilst  others  have 
lost  all  organs  except  that  of  locomo- 
tion which  has  become  one  of  the 
swimming  bells  of  the  colony.  Other 
zoologists,  and  I  myself  amongst  them, 
think  that  the  Siphonophora  are 
colonies  of  organs  in  which  there  has 
been  as  yet  practically  no  development  of  individuality. 
A  living  chain  of  Siphonophora  is  simply  a  number  of 
organs  such  as  stomachs,  tentacles,  swimming  bells  and  so 
forth,  united  on  a  common  stem.  I  need  not  discuss  the 
disputed  point  further,  for  the  only  matter  pertinent  to  rrty 
argument  is  that  in  the  Siphonophora  the  loss  of  individu- 
ality, the  sacrifice  of  the  parts  to  the  whole,  is  not  so  great 
as  in  the  Myxomycetes. 

FIG.   23.— One  of  the 

(After  Chun.) 
pn,  pneumatic  chamber ; 
clh,  swimming  bells; 
stl,  stolon. 



In  support  of  my  view,  I  must  recall  the  small  forms  of 
Siphonophora  known  as  Eudoxia.  These  are  detached 
pieces  of  the  common  trunk  which  swim  freely  in  the 
sea  and  have  a  remarkable  structure  (Fig.  24).  Their 
mobility  is  due  to  a  bell  provided  with  strong  muscular 
fibres.  The  bell  is  a  portion  of  an  individual  which  pos- 
sesses organs  of  reproduction  but  which  is  devoid  of  the 
means  to  capture  or  digest  food.  These  two  functions 
are  performed  by  a  second  individual  which  is  closely 
united  with  the  first.  The  nutrient  individual  has  a  long 

FIG.  24.— Eudoxia. 
(After  Chun.) 

FlG.    25.  —  Botryllus 


o,  mouth  ;  A,  common 

tentacle  by  which  the  prey  is  captured,  and  a  capacious 
stomach  in  which  it  is  digested.  The  products  of  diges- 
tion pass  by  channels  into  the  reproductive  individual, 
carrying  as  it  were  a  ready-made  blood.  Eudoxia  in  fact 
is  a  double  being  composed  of  an  individual  incapable  of 
locomotion  or  of  reproduction,  but  adapted  for  prehension 
and  digestion,  and  of  a  second  individual  which  can  repro- 
duce and  which  is  mobile.  Eudoxia  is  an  association 
resembling  that  of  the  blind  man  and  the  paralytic,  in 
Florian's  fable. 

Advance  in  the  organisation  of  social  animals  is  plainly 


incompatible  with  complete  loss  of  individuality,  and  this 
becomes  the  more  apparent  the  higher  we  reach  in  the  scale 
of  life.  In  the  social  Ascidians,  each  member  retains  all 
the  organs  necessary  to  life.  Animals  of  the  genus  Botryllus 
(Fig.  25),  perhaps  the  most  interesting  of  these  Ascidians, 
occur  in  the  form  of  circular  colonies.  The  individuals 
which  compose  the  colony  are  grouped  radially  around  a 
common  centre  which  is  occupied  by  the  cloaca.  Each  in- 
dividual has  its  own  mouth  and  digestive  tube,  but  the 
latter  opens  into  a  cloaca,  common  to  all  the  individuals, 
by  which  the  excreta  are  voided.  There  is,  in  fact,  a  single 
anus,  as  in  the  case  of  Rosa  and  Josepha  which  I  have  just 



Social  life  of  insect*? — Development  and  preservation  of 
individuality  in  colonies  of  insects — Division  of  labour  and 
sacrifice  of  individuality  in  some  insects 

HITHERTO  I  have  dealt  with  associations  of  animals  the 
members  of  which  are  linked  by  an  actual  material  bond. 
In  the  insect  world  there  are  many  cases  of  highly  devel- 
oped colonies.  But  the  organisation  of  insects  is  high,  and 
is  incompatible  with  the  existence  of  actual  physical  con- 
nection between  the  members  of  the  society. 

In  early  stages  of  the  development  of  the  social  instinct  in 
bees,  fully  formed  and  similar  individuals  join  together 
with  the  object  of  securing  the  safety  of  their  individual 
lives.  Sometimes  they  act  together  to  drive  away  a 
common  enemy,  sometimes,  as  in  winter,  they  cling  in  a 
mass  to  maintain  their  temperature.  In  such  primitive 
societies,  the  young  are  not  reared  in  common.  It  is  only 
in  much  more  highly  developed  colonies,  such  as  those  of 
some  bees  and  wasps,  and  of  ants  and  termites,  that  the 
chief  object  of  the  common  action  is  care  of  the  progeny. 
Such  an  extreme  development  of  the  colony  is  attained  only 
by  sacrificing  the  individuality  of  the  members.  There  is 
a  far-reaching  division  of  labour,  so  that  the  queens,  for 
instance,  are  mere  machines  for  laying  eggs.  In  hive-bees 


the  queen  can  no  longer  judge  of  what  is  good  for  the 
colony,  her  intellectual  functions  being  degenerate.  She 
is  enclosed  in  her  cell  and  supported  by  the  workers,  who 
see  in  her  the  future  of  the  race.  In  times  of  want  the 
worker-bees  sacrifice  their  own  lives  and  give  the  queen  the 
last  remnants  of  the  food-supply  so  that  she  survives  them. 
The  males  are  incomplete  individuals  and  are  tolerated  only 
so  long  as  they  are  required,  after  which  the  workers  kill 
them  remorselessly. 

The  workers,  which  take  such  pains  for  the  well-being  of 
the  hive,  are  incomplete  individuals.  Their  brains  are  well 
developed  and  they  are  well  equipped  with  organs  for 
making  wax  and  collecting  food,  but  their  reproductive 
organs  are  reduced  to  mere  vestiges  incapable  of  fulfilling 
their  functions. 

Here  then  is  a  case  of  loss  of  individual  characters  in- 
creasing with  the  perfection  of  the  colony.  Amongst  ants 
and  termites,  the  social  life  of  which  arose  quite  indepen- 
dently of  that  of  bees,  the  same  course  of  events  has  been 
repeated.  High  intelligence  and  skill  are  confined  to  the 
workers,  in  which  the  reproductive  organs  are  atrophied. 
The  soldiers  have  powerful  jaws  used  in  defence  of  the 
camp,  but  they,  too,  are  sexually  incomplete.  The  females 
and  males,  in  which  the  reproductive  organs  have  attained 
huge  proportions  so  that  the  bodies  are  little  more  than 
sacs  containing  the  sexual  elements,  have  no  intelligence 
and  very  little  skill. 

An  extremely  curious  specialisation,  consisting  in  the 
formation  of  honey-bearfng  workers,  occurs  in  some  Mexi- 
can ants.  Some  of  the  workers  of  these  races  absorb  so 
much  honey  that  their  bodies  become  swollen  honey-bags. 
The  limbs  can  no  longer  support  the  expanded  body,  and 
the  insects,  reduced  to  immobility,  do  not  quit  the  burrows. 


Normal  life  has  become  impossible  for  these  individuals, 
who  soon  die  for  the  good  of  the  community.  When  the 
normal  workers  or  the  sexual  individuals  are  hungry,  they 
approach  the  honey-bearers  and  take  honey  from  their 

mouths.     The    honey-bearers    have    be- 

come  no  more  than  animated  cupboards 

(Fig<  26)* 

The  termites  belong  to  quite  another 
FIG.  26.— A  Honey-  class  of  the  group  Insecta,  but  in  their 
/AA    \>\    \       case  a  similar  sacrifice  of  the  individual 

(Alter  rJrenm.) 

to  the  state  is  practised.  The  females 
become  transformed  to  shapeless  bags  of  eggs.  They 
cannot  move,  but  remain  secluded  in  the  recesses  of  the 
"ant "-hill,  where  they  lay  as  many  as  80,000  eggs  a  day. 
The  soldiers  have  become  provided  with  jaws  so  enormous 
that  these  unsexed  insects  can  perform  no  function  other 
than  defence  of  the  colony. 

The  partial  reduction  of  individuality  in  social  insects 
never  goes  so  far  as  in  the  cases  of  the  lower  animals  I  have 
described.  It  may  be  stated  as  a  general  rule  that  increase 
in  the  perfection  of  organisation  brings  with  it  a  more  pr 
less  complete  preservation  of  individuality  in  the  members 
of  a  community. 

I  shall  now  examine  to  what  extent  this  law  can  be 
applied  in  the  case  of  man. 



Human  societies — Differentiation  in  the  human  race — 
Learned  women — Habits  of  a  bee,  Halictus  quadricinctus 
— Collectivist  theories — Criticisms  by  Herbert  Spencer  and 
Nietzsche — Progress  of  individuality  in  the  societies  of  higher 

SOCIAL  life  is  for  the  most  part  little  developed  amongst 
vertebrate  animals.  The  birds  and  fishes  which  live  in 
communities  present  no  organisation  of  society  even  com- 
parable with  that  found  amongst  insects.  There  Is  little 
advance  in  this  respect  in  the  case  of  mammals,  and  it  is  not 
until  we  come  to  man  that  highly  organised  societies  are  to 
be  found.  Man  is  the  first  vertebrate  to  develop  an  organ- 
ised social  life.  But,  whilst  in  the  insect  world,  instincts 
are  of  supreme  importance  in  the  regulation  of  the  com- 
munity, there  is  little  instinctive  action  in  human  com- 
munities. The  consciousness  of  individuality,  or  egoism, 
is  very  powerful  in  human  beings,  and  perhaps  for  that 
reason  our  ancestors  made  little  progress  in  the  development 
of  social  relations. 

Anthropoid  apes  adhere  in  little  groups  or  in  families 
without  any  true  social  organisation.  Love  of  the  neigh- 
bour, or  altruism,  appears  to  be  a  recent  and  feeble  human 

Although  the  organisation  of  human  society  is  far  ad- 


vanced  and  division  of  labour  very  complete,  there  is  no 
differentiation  of  the  individuals  comparable  with  what  is 
found  amongst  insects.  Although  in  animals  so  different  as 
Siphonophora,  bees,  wasps,  and  termites  the  develop- 
ment of  the  community,  proceeding  along  different  lines, 
has  brought  into  existence  non-sexual  individuals,  there  is 
no  trace  of  this  specialisation  amongst  human  beings. 

Certain  abnormalities  in  the  condition  of  the  sexual  organs 
are  occasionally  found  in  men  and  women,  but  these  cannot 
be  compared  with  the  production  of  sexless  individuals  that 
has  taken  place  amongst  other  social  creatures.  I  cannot 
accept  the  view  that  we  are  to  see  something  analogous  to 
the  case  of  worker  bees  in  the  prohibition  of  sexual  relations 
imposed  by  some  religious  systems  on  a  certain  number  of 
individuals.  But  in  any  event  there  is  little  importance  in 
this  occurrence,  which  is  rapidly  becoming  rarer. 

In  recent  times,  both  in  Europe  and  the  United  States  of 
America,  there  has  been  an  active  development  of  a  feminin- 
ist  movement  impelling  women  towards  higher  education. 
Women,  no  longer  content  with  the  avocations  of  mother 
and  housewife,  have  pressed  into  professions  such  as  law 
and  medicine.  There  is  a  steady  increase  in  the  number  of 
women  who  study  at  the  Universities,  and  countries  like 
Germany,  which  have  tried  to  exclude  women  from  higher 
studies,  will  soon  have  to  yield  before  an  irresistible  pres- 

Can  we  regard  the  results  of  this  movement  as  analogous 
to  the  production  of  sexless  workers  which  has  taken 
place  amongst  social  insects?  I  think  not.  It  is  un- 
doubtedly true  that  a  certain  number  of  young  women,  who, 
for  some  reason  or  other  are  unlikely  to  marry,  devote  them- 
selves to  scientific  study.  In  these  cases,  however,  celibacy 
is  the  cause,  not  the  result  of  the  increased  intellectual 


activity.  On  the  other  hand,  it  must  be  remembered  that 
many  women  students  of  science  eventually  marry.  In  St. 
Petersburg,  for  instance,  there  were  1,091  women  in  the 
Medical  School ;  of  these  80  were  already  married  and  19 
were  widows.  Of  the  remaining  992,  436  or  44  per  cent, 
married  during  the  course  of  their  studies. 

Observation  of  the  femininist  movement,  which  has  lasted 
for  more  than  forty  years,  shows  that  in  most  cases  there 
is  no  tendency  towards  the  formation  of  individuals  re- 
sembling the  infertile  worker  insects.  Most  lady  doctors 
and  learned  women  would  like  nothing  better  than  to  be 
the  founders  of  a  family.  Even  the  women  who  have  been 
most  distinguished  in  the  scientific  world  are  no  exception 
to  the  rule.  In  this  relation  it  is  very  interesting  to  follow 
the  details-  of  the  life  of  Sophie  Kowalevsky,  one  of  the 
most  notable  of  learned  women.  In  her  youth,  when  she 
began  to  study  mathematics,  she  would  not  admit  that  feel- 
ings of  love  had  any  importance.  Later  on,  however,  when 
she  felt  herself  growing  old,  these  sentiments  awoke  in  her 
to  such  an  extent  that  on  the  day  when  the  prize  of  the 
Academy  of  Sciences  was  bestowed  on  her,  she  wrote  to 
one  of  her  friends,  "  I  am  getting  innumerable  letters  of 
congratulation,  but  by  the  strange  irony  of  fate,  I  have 
never  felt  so  unhappy." 

The  cause  of  this  discontent  reveals  itself  in  the  words 
which  she  addressed  to  her  most  intimate  woman  friend. 
"Why  is  it,"  she  said,  "that  no  one  loves  me?  I  could 
give  more  than  most  women,  and  while  the  most  ordinary 
women  are  loved,  as  for  me,  I  am  not  loved."  l 

It  is,  in  fact,  impossible  to  regard  the  celibacy  of  persons,, 
devoted  to  religion  or  to  scientific  studies  as  the  beginning 
of  a  special  organisation  analogous  to  that  of  worker  bees. 
1  Souvenirs  d/enfance  de  S.  Kowalevsky,  1895,  pp.  301-311. 



However,  it  is  still  probable  that  in  the  human  race  a 
special  differentiation  has  been  established  for  the  accom- 
plishment of  different  and  essential  functions. 

The  organisation  of  human  societies  has  certainly  not  fol- 
lowed the  path  by  which  social  insects  attained  the  forma- 
tion of  sexless  individuals.  It  much  more  closely  re- 
sembles what  has  taken  place  in  some  isolated  animal  types. 
A  solitary  bee,  named  Halictus  quadricinctus  (Fig.  27),  is 
characterised  by  the  fact  that  the  female  does  not  die  when 
she  has  laid  her  last  eggs,  as  generally  happens  amongst 
insects,  but  remains  alive  to  cherish  her  offspring.  This 
final  portion  of  her  life  does  not  last  long,  and  the  bee  can- 
not play  the  prominent  part  of  governess  in  a  society  of 
insects  organised  by  this  specialisation  of  elderly  females. 
In  the  human  race  the  individual  life  lasts 
longer  and  a  division  of  labour  takes  place 
in  the  fashion  suggested  by  Halictus  quad- 

FIG. 27.—  Halictus  An  ordinary  woman  ceases  to  be  fertile  at 
between  forty  and  fifty  years  old,  that  is  to 
say,  at  a  time  when,  according  to  statistics, 
she  has  still  on  the  average  twenty  years  to  live.  During 
this  long  period,  she  can  perform  an  extremely  useful 
function  in  society,  a  function  resembling  that  of  the 
old  mothers  of  Halictus  quadricinctus,  and  consisting 
chiefly  in  the  bringing  up  and  education  of  the  children. 
Who  does  not  know  the  extraordinary  devotion  of  grand- 
mothers, and,  as  a  general  rule,  of  old  women,  who  are 
extremely  useful  in  bringing  up  children.  And  none  the 
less,  it  must  not  be  forgotten  that,  actually,  old  age  begins 
too  soon,  that  it  is  not  what  it  ought  to  be  under  normal 
conditions,  and  that  human  life  itself  does  not  last  nearly 
so  long  as  it  ought  to  do  in  ideal  conditions.  We  may  pre- 


diet  that  when  science  occupies  the  preponderating  place  in 
human  society  that  it  ought  to  have,  and  when  knowledge 
of  hygiene  is  more  advanced,  human  life  will  become  much 
longer  and  the  part  of  old  people  will  become  much  more 
important  than  it  is  to-day. 

The  members  of  human  society  are  not  divided  into 
sexual  and  neuter  individuals  as  amongst  insects,  but  the 
active  life  of  every  individual  can  be  divided  into  two 
periods,  the  first  one  of  productive  activity,  and  the  second 
of  sterility  but  none  the  less  devoted  to  work  useful  to  the 
community.  The  essential  difference  between  the  two  cases 
may  be  reduced  to  the  contrast  that  whilst  the  individuals 
of  which  animal  societies  are  composed  are  structurally  in- 
complete, in  human  societies  the  individual  preserves  his 

We  come,  then,  to  the  result  that  the  more  highly 
organised  a  social  being  may  be,  so  also  the  more  highly 
developed  is  his  individuality.  It  follows  that  amongst  the 
theories  which  seek  to  control  social  life,  those  are  the  best 
which  leave  a  field  sufficiently  wide  and  free  for  the  develop- 
ment of  individual  initiative.  The  ideal  which  has  been  so 
often  advocated  and  according  to  which  the  individual  is  to 
be  sacrificed  as  completely  as  possible  to  society,  cannot  be 
regarded  as  in  harmony  with  the  general  law  of  organic 
associations.  Special  conditions  exist  in  social  life  in  which 
great  sacrifices  are  inevitable,  but  such  an  arrangement 
cannot  be  considered  as  general  and  permanent.  We  may 
predict  that  the  more  human  beings  succeed  in  advancing 
communal  life,  the  fewer  cases  there  will  be  in  which  the 
individual  has  to  be  sacrificed. 

In  the  hope  of  subduing  the  egoism  rooted  in  human 
nature,  moralists  have  preached  renunciation  of  individual 
happiness  and  the  need  of  subordinating  it  to  the  good  of 

Q  2 


the  community.  Very  often  such  doctrine  has  borne  little 
fruit,  but  there  are  cases  where  it  has  been  embraced  with 
such  ardour  that  men  and,  still  more,  young  women  have 
been  led  to  sacrifice  their  well-being  for  what  they  have 
taken  to  be  the  common  good.  However  it  may  involve 
self-abnegation,  there  has  been  continued  insistence  on  the 
duty  of  sacrificing  the  individual  to  the  community. 

The  existing  great  inequalities  in  the  distribution  of 
wealth  have  revived  doctrines  the  object  of  which  is  to 
redress  such  injustice.  For  more  than  a  century,  different 
forms  of  socialism  have  claimed  to  formulate  rules  for  the 
amelioration  of  mankind.  They  agree  in  a  verdict 
against  existing  conditions,  but  follow  different  paths 
in  their  proposals  for  the  reformation  of  society.  The 
varieties  of  socialism  are  so  numerous  that  it  is  difficult 
even  to  define  the  word.  Although  collectivist  theories 
have  lost  much  of  their  early  thoroughness,  they  are  still 
far  from  admitting  the  just  claims  of  the  individuals  con- 
stituting the  society.  At  socialist  assemblies  and  con- 
gresses the  resolutions  adopted  frequently  proclaim 
aggressively  the  sacrifice  of  the  rights  of  the  individual. 
The  members  of  one  socialist  party  have  been  seen  refusing 
the  collaboration  of  newspapers  which  are  not  the  official 
organs  of  the  party,  or  declining  any  co-operation  with  a 
government  they  have  proscribed.  In  strikes  organised  by 
socialists,  work  is  forbidden  to  men  who  ardently  desire  it. 
Recently  printers  have  refused  to  set  up  newspapers  the 
opinions  of  which  they  did  not  share,  and  even  doctors 
have  been  known  to  decline  to  treat  those  belonging  to 
another  political  party. 

It  is  no  new  charge  against  collectivists  that  they  would 
encroach  too  much  on  individual  liberty.  They  reply  that 
"  in  social-democratic  society  of  the  future,  tyranny  and 


oppression  will  be  impossible.  The  secret  of  the  bond  will 
reside  in  a  discipline  totally  different  from  the  inanimate 
obedience  of  the  soldier,  a  discipline  depending  on  a  willing 
submission  of  the  individual  to  the  group  because  of  the 
common  object."1  But  such  discipline  and  submission 
may  go  so  far  that  the  conscience  of  the  individual  is  seri- 
ously offended.  And  so  amongst  the  socialists  themselves 
there  has  arisen  a  small  group  which  declines  to  accept  this 
submergence  of  the  individual  in  the  whole.  This  group 
is  composed  of  anarchists,  who,  in  the  name  of  liberty  and 
the  individual,  attack  the  property  and  sometimes  the  lives 
of  their  opponents. 

It  appears  that  there  has  been  a  notable  evolution  of 
collectivist  theories  in  the  century  or  more  in  which  the 
abolition  of  human  misery  has  been  an  accepted  problem. 
Whilst  there  was  formerly  advocated  the  total  abolition  of 
private  property  and  the  establishment  of  phalansteries  for 
communal  life,  at  the  present  time  the  demand  is  limited 
to  the  nationalisation  of  the  means  of  production,  leaving 
housing  and  food  to  be  provided  by  individual  property. 

Through  a  publication,  of  M.  Kautsky,  one  of  their  best 
known  representatives,  the  social  democrats  have  announced 
that  "the  nationalisation  of  the  land  does  not  necessarily 
bring  with  it  the  abolition  of  private  dwellings.  The  custom- 
ary attachment  of  the  dwelling  to  agricultural  employment 
will  cease,  but  there  is  no  reason  why  the  peasants'  houses 
should  become  collective  property."  "Modern  socialism 
does  not  exclude  individual  property  in  food.  One  of  the 
most  important,  perhaps  the  most  important  factor,  in  mak- 
ing human  life  happy  and  adding  to  its  pleasures  is  the 
possible  attainment  of  a  private  house.  Collective  owner- 

1  W.  Henberg,  Sozialdentokratie  und  Anarchismus,  1906,  p.  17. 

2  Le  problems  agraire,  1905,  p.  147. 


ship  of  the  land  does  not  exclude  this."  It  is  very  difficult 
to  separate  house  and  garden,  especially  from  the  point  of 
view  of  considering  the  pleasures  of  life.  A  garden  fur- 
nishes the  opportunity  for  endless  improvements,  many  of 
which  cannot  be  separated  from  the  idea  of  individual  pro- 
perty. The  concessions  which  collectivists  have  been  com- 
pelled to  make  show  conclusively  the  importance  of  private 

Notwithstanding  such  modifications,  many  voices  have 
been  raised  against  the  prospect  of  the  socialisation  of  the 
means  of  production  and  the  concomitant  limitations  of 
individual  enterprise.  The  great  English  philosopher, 
Herbert  Spencer,1  against  whom  narrowness  of  view  or 
conservatism  could  be  urged,  energetically  attacked  collec- 
tivist  doctrines  as  tending  to  reduce  human  individuality  to 
a  dead  level.  By  a  series  of  cogent  instances,  he  showed 
the  evil  results  of  the  best  intentioned  efforts  to  equalise 
opportunities  and  to  abolish  poverty.  He  foretold  that 
slavery  would  be  the  real  outcome  if  the  State  interfered  too 
much  in  spheres  that  ought  to  be  left  to  individual  enter- 
prise. He  believed  that  the  institution  of  a  collectivist  State 
would  bring  great  dangers. 

Nietzsche  has  attacked  socialism  with  his  customary 
exaggeration.  "  Socialism,"  2  he  wrote,  "  is  the  fanatical 
younger  brother  of  dying  despotism,  whose  goods  he 
wishes  to  inherit ;  his  efforts  are,  in  the  deepest  sense  of  the 
word,  reactionary.  He  wishes  a  wealth  of  power  in  the 
State  greater  than  despotism  ever  enjoyed,  but  he  goes 

1  "The  Coming  Slavery"  in  Man  versus  the  State,  1888,  p.  18. 

2  Human,    too  Human.     French  translation,    1899,  pp.  405-407.    A 
German  critic  has  reproached  me  for  my  ignorance  of  Nietzsche's  works. 
I  have  read  several  of  them,  but  the  mixture  of  genius  and  madness  in 
them  makes  them  difficult  to  use.     In  this  connection  Moebius'  volume. 
Ueber  das  Pathologische  bet  Nietzsche  (Wiesbaden,  1902),  is  of  interest. 


beyond  all  the  past  inasmuch  as  he  strives  absolutely  to 
stifle  the  individual;  for  him  the  individual  is  a  useless 
efflorescence  of  nature  to  be  tamed  into  a  useful  organ  of 
the  community."  Further,  "  Socialism  at  least  teaches 
brutally  and  convincingly  the  danger  of  concentrating 
power  in  the  State,  for  it  is  a  covert  attack  on  the  State 
itself.  When  ks  harsh  voice  raises  the  war-cry  '  Let  the 
State  control  as  much  as  possible,'  the  cry  will  at  first 
become  louder ;  but  soon  another  phrase  will  grow  equally 
clamant,  '  Let  the  State  control  as  little  as  possible.'  " 

It  is  most  probable  that  no  shade  of  socialism  will  be  able 
to  solve  the  problem  of  social  life  with  a  sufficient  respect 
for  the  maintenance  of  individual  liberty.  None  the  less 
the  progress  of  human  knowledge  will  inevitably  bring 
about  a  great  levelling  of  human  fortunes.  Intellectual 
culture  will  lead  men  to  give  up  many  things  that  are 
superfluous  or  even  harmful,  and  that  are  still  thought  in- 
dispensable by  most  people.  The  conceptions  that  the 
greatest  good  fortune  consists  in  the  complete  evolution  of 
the  normal  cycle  of  human  life  and  that  this  goal  can  be 
reached  most  easily  by  plain  and  sober  habits  will  convince 
men  of  the  folly  of  much  of  the  luxury  that  now  shortens 
human  existence.  Whilst  the  rich  will  choose  a  simpler 
mode  of  life  and  the  poor  will  be  able  to  live  better,  none  the 
less,  private  property,  acquired  or  inherited,  may  be  main- 
tained. Evolution  must  be  gradual  and  much  effort  and 
new  knowledge  is  required.  Sociology,  a  new-born  science, 
must  learn  of  biology,  her  older  sister-  Biology  teaches  us 
that  in  proportion  that  the  organisation  becomes  more  com- 
plex, the  consciousness  of  individuality  develops,  until  a 
point  is  reached  at  which  individuality  cannot  be  sacrificed 
to  the  community.  Amongst  low  creatures  such  as  Myxo- 
mycetes  and  Siphonophora,  the  individuals  disappear 


wholly  or  almost  wholly  in  the  community ;  but  the  sacrifice 
is  small,  as  in  these  creatures  the  consciousness  of  indi- 
viduality has  not  appeared.  Social  insects  are  in  a  stage 
intermediate  between  that  of  the  lower  animals  and  man. 
It  is  only  in  man  that  the  individual  has  definitely  acquired 
consciousness,  and  for  that  reason  a  satisfactory  social 
organisation  cannot  sacrifice  it  on  pretext  of  the  common 
good.  To  this  conclusion  the  study  of  the  social  evolution 
of  living  beings  leads  me. 

It  is  plain  that  the  study  of  human  individuality  is  a 
necessary  step  in  the  organisation  of  the  social  life  of 
human  beings. 




Oriental   origin    of   pessimism — Pessimistic    poets — Byron — 
Leopardi — Poushkin — Lermontoff — Pessimism  and  suicide 

IN  the  attempt  to  formulate  a  pessimistic  theory  of  human 
nature,  we  are  naturally  led  to  ask  why  it  is  that  so  many 
famous  men  have  come  to  a  purely  pessimistic  conception  of 
human  life. 

Pessimism,  although  it  has  been  most  prominent  in 
modern  times,  is  extremely  old.  Everyone  knows  the  pessi- 
mistic wail  of  Ecclesiastes,  written  nearly  ten  centuries 
before  our  era :  "  Vanity  of  Vanities,  all  is  vanity." 
Solomon,  the  supposed  author,  states  that  he  "  hated  life, 
because  the  work  that  is  wrought  under  the  sun  is  grievous 
unto  me,  for  all  is  vanity  and  vexation  of  spirit  "  (Eccl.  ii., 


Buddha  raised  pessimisim  to  the  rank  of  a  doctrine.  All 
life  seemed  to  him  sorrow.  "Birth  is  sorrow,  old  age  is 
sorrow,  disease  is  sorrow,  union  with  one  whom  we  do  not 
love  is  sorrow,  separation  from  one  whom  we  love  is  sorrow, 
not  to  gratify  desire  is  sorrow,  in  short,  our  five  bonds 
with  the  things  of  the  earth  are  sorrow."1  This  Buddhistic 

1  Quoted  by  Oldenberg,  Le  Bouddha,  French  translation,  Paris,  1894, 
p.  214. 


pessimism  has  been  the  source  of  most  of  the  modern 
pessimistic  theories. 

Pessimism  arose  in  the  East  and  was  much  in  vogue  in 
India  even  apart  from  Buddhism.  In  the  poems  known 
under  the  name  of  Bhartrihari,  and  dating  from  the  begin- 
ning of  the  Christian  era,  human  life  has  been  commiserated 
in  the  following  fashion.  "  One  hundred  years  are  the 
limit  of  the  life  of  man ;  night  takes  half  of  them,  half  of 
the  other  half  is  childhood  and  old  age,  the  rest  is  rilled 
with  diseases,  with  separations  and  the  misfortunes  that 
come  from  them,  with  working  for  others  and  with  wasting 
one's  time.  Where  can  happiness  be  found  in  an  existence 
most  like  to  the  bubbles  in  broken  water?"  "Man's 
health  is  destroyed  by  every  kind  of  care  and  disease. 
When  fortune  comes  to  him,  evil  follows  as  if  by  an  open 
door.  Death  takes  all  human  beings,  one  after  the  other, 
and  they  can  offer  no  resistance  to  their  fate.  What  is  there 
assured  amongst  all  that  the  mighty  Brahma  has  created?  "  l 

Pessimistic  theories  spread  from  the  Asiatic  East  to 
Egypt  and  Europe.  Three  centuries  before  the  Christian 
era,  there  arose  the  philosophy  of  Hegesias,  which  main- 
tained that  experience  was  generally  deceptive  and  that  en- 
joyment was  quickly  followed  by  satiety  and  disgust.  Ac- 
cording to  him,  the  sum  of  pain  surpassed  the  sum  of 
pleasure  in  life,  so  that  happiness  was  unattainable,  and  in 
reality  never  existed.  It  was  vain  to  seek  pleasure  and  hap- 
piness, as  these  could  not  be  realised.  It  was  better  to  try  to 
be  indifferent,  dulling  feeling  and  desire.  In  fact,  life  was  no 
better  than  death,  and  it  was  often  preferable  to  end  it  by 
suicide.  Hegesias  was  called  Pisithanatos,  the  adviser  of 
death.  "  Listeners  thronged  around  him,  his  doctrine 
spread  rapidly,  and  his  disciples,  persuaded  by  his  voice, 

1  P.  R^gnaud,  "  Le  pessimisme  brahmanique,"  in  Annales  du  Muse'e 
Guimet,  1880,  vol.  i,  pp.  no-ill. 


gave  themselves  to  death.  Ptolemy  was  perturbed  by  it, 
and  fearing  that  the  dislike  of  life  would  become  contagious, 
closed  the  school  of  Hegesias  and  exiled  its  master."1 

The  pessimistic  tendency  sometimes  appears  in  the  writ- 
ings of  many  Greek  and  Latin  philosophers  and  poets. 
Seneca  wrote  :  "  The  spectacle  of  human  life  is  lamentable. 
New  misfortunes  overwhelm  you  before  you  have  freed 
yourself  from  the  old  ones."  2 

It  is  in  modern  days,  however,  that  there  has  been  the 
greatest  spread  of  pessimism. 

Besides  the  philosophical  theories  of  the  last  century, 
those  of  Schopenhauer,  von  Hartmann  and  Mailaender, 
which  I  discussed  sufficiently  in  The  Nature  of  Man,  poets 
have  formulated  a  pessimistic  view  of  life.  Even  Voltaire 
was  a  pessimist  in  the  following  lines  : 

Alas  1  what  are  the  course  and  the  goal  of  life  ? 

Only  follies  and  then  the  darkness. 
Oh  Jupiter !   in  creating  us  you  made 

A  heartless  jest. 

In  The  Nature  of  Man  I  described  Byron's  expression 
of  his  conception  of  the  evils  of  human  life.  Soon  after  the 
death  of  the  great  English  poet,  a  celebrated  Italian  poet, 
Giacomo  Leopardi,  sounded  a  note  of  abandoned  pessim- 

Here  are  words  which  he  addressed  to  his  own  heart3: 
"  Be  quiet  for  ever,  you  have  beaten  enough,  nothing  is 
worthy  of  your  beating  and  the  earth  is  not  worthy  of  your 
sighs.  Life  is  nothing  but  bitterness  and  weariness,  there 
is  nothing  else  in  it.  The  world  is  nothing  but  mire. 
Repose  from  now  onwards.  Be  in  despair  for  ever.  Destiny 
has  given  us  nothing  but  death.  Despise  henceforth  your- 

1  Guyau,  La  Morale  d1  Epicure,  4th  edition,  1904,  p.  116. 

2  Ad  Marciam,  chap.  x. 

3  Poesies  et  oeuvres  morales,  by  Leopardi.    Translated   into  French 
i8«o,  p.  49. 


self  and  nature,  and  the  shameful  concealed  power  which 
decrees  the  ruin  of  all  and  the  infinite  variety  of  all." 

Leopardi  makes  his  readers  witnesses  of  his  distraction 
and  his  grief  :  "  I  shall  study  the  blind  truth  " — he  wrote  in 
a  poem  dedicated  to  Charles  P^poli — "  I  shall  study  the 
blind  fates  of  things  mortal  and  immortal.  Why  humanity 
came  into  existence,  and  was  burdened  with  pain  and 
sorrow,  to  what  final  end  destiny  and  nature  are  driving  it, 
for  whose  pleasure  or  advantage  is  our  great  pain,  what 
order,  what  laws  rule  this  mysterious  universe  which  wise 
men  cover  with  praise,  and  I  am  content  to  wonder  at " 
(ibid.,  p.  15). 

Quite  a  school  of  poets  has  been  developed,  singing 
the  pain  of  the  world,  the  "  Weltschmerz  "  of  German 
authors,  amongst  whom  Heine  and  Nicolas  Lenau  are 
specially  distinguished. 

Russian  poetry  was  born  under  the  influence  of  Byron- 
ism,  and  its  best  exponents,  Poushkin  and  Lermontoff, 
often  laboured  over  the  problem  of  the  object  of  human 
existence,  finding  only  sad  answers.  Poushkin,  who  is 
justly  regarded  as  the  father  of  lyric  poetry  in  Russia, 
stated  his  pessimistic  conception  in  the  following  lines  : — 

Useless  gift,  gift  of  chance. 

Life,   why  wert   thou  given   me? 

And  why  from  the  beginning  art  thou  doomed 

Irrevocably  to  death? 

What  unfriendly  power 
Has  drawn  me  from  the  darkness, 
Has  filled  my  soul  with  passion, 
And  breathed  doubt  into  my  soul? 

There  is  no  goal  for  me, 
My  heart  and  my  soul  are  empty ; 
And  the  dull  emotion  of  life 
Has  filled  me  with  black  care. 


Recently,  Mde.  Ackermann,  in  a  series  of  short  poems, 
has  given  voice  to  the  grief  caused  to  her  by  the  world  and 
life  as  they  are,  although  she  does  not  state  exactly  the 
reason  of  her  bitter  complaints. 

Whilst  pessimistic  philosophers  and  poets  reflect  the 
thoughts  and  feelings  of  their  contemporaries,  it  is  certain 
that  they  also  seriously  influence  their  readers.  And  so 
there  has  come  into  existence  a  deeply  rooted  conviction 
that  the  miseries  of  human  life  are  far  from  being  counter- 
vailed by  its  happiness.  Probably  such  ideas  have  influ- 
enced the  number  of  suicides.  We  do  not  know  with  any 
certainty  the  real  motives  of  most  cases  of  self-destruction, 
but  it  cannot  be  denied  that  the  trend  of  modern  thought 
has  played  an  important  part.  According  to  statistics,  the 
chief  causes  of  suicide  are  "hypochondria,  melancholia, 
weariness  of  life,  and  unbalancing  of  the  mind."  Thus  from 
the  Danish  statistics  it  appears  (and  Denmark  is  the  country 
in  which  suicide  is  most  prevalent)  that  of  1,000  cases  of 
suicides  of  males,  between  1866  and  1895,  224,  or  one- 
quarter,  were  referred  to  the  causes  I  have  just  mentioned. 
In  the  case  of  women,  the  corresponding  figures  are  higher, 
amounting  to  nearly  one-half  (403  out  of  1,000).  The 
second  most  common  cause  of  male  suicides  is  alcoholism 
(164  in  ijooo).1  It  is  very  probable  that  pessimism  was  the 
determining  condition  in  most  of  the  suicides  referred  to 
these  two  categories  of  causes.  Leaving  out  of  the  question 
the  true  cases  of  mental  alienation,  amongst  the  victims  of 
melancholia,  hypochondria  and  weariness  of  life,  in  whom 
the  mental  condition  was  not  pathological  in  the  strict  sense 
of  the  word,  there  must  have  been  many  who  killed  them- 
selves because  their  view  of  life  was  pessimistic.  And 
amongst  the  victims  of  drink,  there  are  many  who  take  to 

1  These  facts  are  taken  from  Westergaard,  2nd  edit.,  1901,  p.  649. 


alcohol  because  they  are  convinced  that  life  is  not  worth 

The  progressive  increase  in  the  numbers  of  suicides  in 
modern  times  is  an  index  of  the  great  influence  of  pessi- 
mism. There  have  been  even  societies  for  the  promotion 
of  suicide.  In  such  a  society,  founded  in  Paris  in  the  begin- 
ning of  last  century,  members  placed  their  names  in  an  urn, 
to  be  drawn  by  chance.  He  whose  name  was  drawn  had 
to  kill  himself  in  the  presence  of  the  other  members. 
According  to  its  rules,  this  society  admitted  only  persons 
of  honour  who  must  have  had  experience  of  "the  injustice 
of  man,  the  ingratitude  of  a  friend,  the  infidelity  of  a  wife 
or  mistress,  and  who,  moreover,  for  many  years  had  had  a 
void  in  their  souls  and  a  distaste  of  what  this  world  can 

Although  such  societies  no  longer  exist,  individuals  con- 
tinue to  put  their  lives  to  an  end,  in  greater  numbers  every 

1  Dieudonn£,  Archiv  fiir  Kulturgeschichte,  1903,  vol.  i,  p.  357, 



Attempts  to  assign  reasons  for  the  pessimistic  conception  of 
life — Views  of  E.  von  Hartmann — Analysis  of  Kowalevsky's 
work  on  the  Psychology  of  Pessimism 

IN  view  of  the  facts  I  brought  together  in  my  last  chapter, 
there  is  occasion  to  inquire  if  it  be  possible  to  discover  the 
intimate  mechanism  by  which  men  arrive  at  a  conception  of 
life  as  an  evil  to  be  got  rid  of  as  quickly  as  possible.  Why 
do  so  many  think  that  man  is  less  happy  than  the  beasts, 
and  that  cultured  and  intelligent  men  are  more  unhappy 
than  those  who  are  ignorant  or  feeble-minded  ? 

I  have  related  how  in  a  society  of  friends  of  suicide, 
injustice  and  unfaithfulness  were  regarded  as  prime  factors 
in  arousing  a  distaste  for  life.  Shakspeare  made  Hamlet 
exclaim  that  if  it  were  possible  to  put  an  end  to  our  days  no 
one  would  continue  to  live  :  — 

For  who  would  bear  the  whips  and  scorns  of  time, 
The  oppressor's  wrong,  the  proud  man's  contumely? 

For  Byron,  besides  diseases,  death  and  slavery,  the  evils 
that  we  see,  there  are  others:  — 

And  worse,  the  woes  we  see  not — which  throb  through 
The  immedicable  soul,  with  heart-aches  ever  new. 

In  many  of  his  works  he  insists  on  the  feeling  of  satiety 


which  was  almost  continually  upon  him.  Every  sensation 
of  pleasure  that  came  to  him  was  rapidly  succeeded  by  a 
still  stronger  feeling  of  disgust. 

Heine  thought  that  existence  was  evil  and  saw 

....  across  the  hard  surfaces  of  the  rocks 
The  homes  of  men  and  the  hearts  of  men — 
In  the  one  as  in  the  others,  lies,  imposture  and  misery. 

As  I  urged  in  The  Nature  of  Man,  consciousness  of 
the  shortness  of  human  life  has  been  an  important  factor 
in  exciting  pessimism,  and  we  find  this  theme  recurring  in 
pessimistic  writers.  Leopardi  returns  to  it  again  and  again 
in  his  poems.  "  Falling  in  peril  of  death  from  some  mys- 
terious disease,"  he  said  in  his  Souvenirs,  "I  lamented 
over  my  sweet  youth  and  the  flower  of  my  poor  days  which 
was  to  fall  so  soon,  and  often  in  the  midnight  hours  wove 
from  my  sorrows,  by  the  pale  light  of  my  lamp,  a  sad  poem, 
and  in  the  silence  of  the  night  wept  over  my  fleeting  life, 
and  half  fainting,  sang  to  myself  my  funeral  song  "  (loc. 
cit.,  p.  28).  The  bas-relief  on  an  ancient  tomb,  represent- 
ing the  departure  of  a  young  girl  who  took  farewell  of 
her  friends,  suggested  to  Leopardi  the  following  thoughts  : 
"  Mother,  who  from  their  birth  makes  her  family  of  living 
beings  tremble  and  weep,  Nature,  monster  unworthy  of  our 
praise,  who  brings  into  the  world  and  nurtures  only  to  kill, 
if  the  premature  death  of  a  mortal  be  evil,  why  do  you  bring 
it  on  so  many  innocent  heads?  If  it  be  a  good,  why  do  you 
make  it  sad  for  those  who  go  and  for  those  left  behind  ? 
Why  is  it  the  hardest  grief  to  console  ?  The  only  relief 
from  our  woes  is  death,  death,  the  inevitable  end,  the  immu- 
table law  which  you  have  established  for  human  beings. 
Why,  alas,  after  the  sad  voyage  of  life,  do  you  not  make 
the  arrival  joyful  ?  This  certain  end,  this  end  which  is  in 
our  souls  all  our  lives,  which  alone  can  soothe  our  troubles, 


why  do  you  drape  it  in  black  and  surround  it  with  mournful 
shades  ?  Why  do  you  make  the  harbour  more  terrible  than 
the  open  seas?"  (loc.  cit.,  p.  55). 

The  three  chief  grievances — injustice,  disease,  and  death 
— often  come  together.  From  the  anthropomorphic  point 
of  view  fate  is  represented  as  a  sort  of  wicked  being  who 
commits  injustice  by  visiting  all  kinds  of  evils  on  mankind. 

A  pessimistic  conception  of  life  is  arrived  at  by  a  complex 
psychological  process  in  which  both  feelings  and  reflection 
are  involved,  and  hence  it  is  difficult  to  analyse  it  satisfac- 
torily. Formerly,  therefore,  writers  were  content  with 
general  and  very  vague  estimates  of  the  process  by  which 
we  may  become  pessimists.  Ed.  von  Hartmann  has  tried 
to  deal  more  exactly  with  this  inner  process  of  the  human 
mind.  In  the  first  place,  he  lays  stress  on  the  fact  that 
pleasures  always  bring  less  satisfaction  than  pains  bring 
grief.  False  notes  in  music,  for  instance,  are  more  painful 
than  the  best  music  is  delightful.  The  pain  of  toothache 
is  much  more  violent  than  the  pleasure  when  relief  comes. 
So  also  with  all  diseases.  In  love,  according  to  Hartmann, 
the  pleasure  is  always  very  greatly  over-balanced  by  the 
pain.  Muscular  work  brings  pleasure  only  in  a  very  small 
degree,  and  devotion  to  science  and  art  and  intellectual 
work  in  general  brings  more  pain  than  pleasure  to  the 
votaries.  As  the  result  of  an  analysis,  Hartmann  is  con- 
vinced that  there  is  much  more  pain  than  pleasure  in  the 
world.  Pessimism  is  founded  upon  the  essential  nature  of 
human  feelings. 

M.  Kowalevsky,1  a  German  philosopher  at  Koenigsberg, 
adopting  the  modern  habit  of  measuring  mental  processes 
as  exactly  as  possible,  has  recently  published  an  attempt 

1  Kowalevsky,  Studien  zur  Psychologic  des  Pessitntsmus,  Wiesbaden, 



to  analyse  pessimism  psychologically.  Although  this  has 
not  solved  the  problem,  it  is  extremely  interesting  as  an 
instance  of  the  application  of  the  methods  now  being 
adopted  in  modern  psychology. 

M.  Kowalevsky  took  advantage  of  all  the  known  methods 
of  estimating  the  relative  values  of  our  emotions;  he  tried 
to  make  use  of  the  notes  of  Munsterberg,  another  living 
psychologist  who  kept  a  journal  in  which  he  set  down  daily 
his  psychical  and  psycho-physical  impressions.  The  object 
of  the  work  had  no  relation  to  the  question  of  pessimism, 
and  for  that  reason  Kowalevsky  thought  that  it  was  speci- 
ally important  in  his  investigations. 

Munsterberg  was  not  content  with  the  existing  classifica- 
tion of  emotions  as  agreeable  or  painful.  He  subdivided 
them  much  further.  He  recognised,  for  instance,  emotions 
of  tranquillity  and  excitement,  serious  and  pleasant  impres- 
sions. Having  completed  the  reckoning,  Kowalevsky 
came  to  the  conclusion  that  his  colleague,  who  was  by  no 
means  a  pessimist,  but  a  psychologist  of  well-balanced 
mind,  experienced  many  more  painful  emotions  (about  60 
per  cent,  as  compared  with  40  per  cent.)  than  agreeable 
emotions.  "  Such  a  result  is  in  favour  of  pessimism,"  con- 
cluded Kowalevsky. 

However,  he  went  beyond  the  foregoing  enquiry.  By 
several  other  methods,  he  tried  to  gain  an  exact  idea  of  the 
value  of  our  emotions.  He  visited  elementary  schools  in 
order  to  investigate  the  pleasures  and  pains  of  the  scholars. 
In  the  case  of  104  boys,  of  eleven  to  thirteen  years  of  age, 
he  found  that  pain  was  much  more  deeply  felt  than  corre- 
sponding pleasure.  Thus,  while  in  88  cases  illness  was 
set  down  as  an  evil,  only  in  21  was  health  reckoned  as  a 
good.  One-third  of  the  pupils  noted  down  war  amongst 
evils,  whilst  only  one  noted  peace  amongst  the  good  things. 


Poverty  was  written  down  thirteen  times  as  an  evil,  against 
twice  in  which  riches  were  put  down  as  a  good.  In  another 
series  of  investigations,  Kowalevsky  took  notes  on  the 
pleasures  and  pains  felt  by  pupils  of  the  two  sexes  attend- 
ing the  same  school.  The  result  was  that  the  greatest  evil, 
according  to  them,  was  illness,  noted  43  times,  then  death 
42  times,  after  which  came  fire  37  times,  hunger  23  times, 
floods  20  times.  Amongst  the  good  things,  the  first  place 
was  given,  as  might  have  been  expected,  to  games  (30)  and 
the  second  to  presents. 

As  Kowalevsky  did  not  find  that  such  investigations 
could  solve  the  problem,  he  tried  to  discover  a  more  exact 
method.  With  this  object,  he  turned  to  different  sensa- 
tions, such  as  those  of  smell,  hearing  and  taste,  to  which 
he  applied  methods  of  exact  measurement.  In  the  case 
of  taste,  for  instance,  he  determined  the  minimum  quantity 
of  different  substances  which  could  excite  definitely  plea- 
sant or  unpleasant  sensations.  In  his  experiments,  Kowal- 
evsky found  that  doses  which  gave  bad  tastes  were  not 
balanced  by  those  which  gave  good  tastes.  For  instance, 
to  neutralise  the  unpleasant  taste  of  quinine,  it  was  neces- 
sary to  employ  a  much  larger  quantity  of  sugar.  He  was 
specially  pleased  with  one  experiment.  Four  persons  were 
given  definite  mixtures  of  sugar  and  quinine  in  order  to 
discover  the  proportion  of  the  two  substances  necessary  to 
obtain  a  neutral  sensation.  He  found  that  to  take  away 
the  bad  taste  of  quinine,  it  was  necessary  to  double  the 
quantity  of  sugar  given.  Similarly  with  smells,  he  found 
that  those  which  were  unpleasant  were  appreciated  much 
more  strongly  than  those  which  were  pleasant.  Here, *" 
then,  was  a  series  of  scientific  results  supporting  the  view 
of  the  pessimists.  Must  we  really  conclude  from  them 
that  the  world  is  very  badly  arranged?  The  analysis  of 

R  2 


good  and  bad  temper  made  by  Kowalevsky  is  in  favour 
of  such  an  interpretation.  In  order  to  estimate  these  con- 
ditions of  mind,  he  measured  the  gait,  that  is  to  say,  the 
number  of  steps  taken  in  a  minute.  This  method  depended 
upon  the  following  idea.  It  is  an  accepted  view  that  the 
condition  of  mind  is  shown  by  the  rapidity  of  the  human 
walk ;  we  have  only  to  compare  the  slow  pace  of  a  man  in 
deep  grief  with  the  rapid  steps  of  a  man  in  a  state  of  joy. 
Pain,  as  a  general  rule,  depresses,  while  joy  stimulates 
voluntary  movements.  The  result  of  the  measurements 
taken  according  to  this  method  give  a  new  argument  in 
favour  of  pessimism.  However,  it  is  useless  to  attempt 
to  analyse  these  figures  on  which  Kowalevsky  had  to  em- 
ploy the  integral  calculus,  because  the  principle  of  his 
method  cannot  be  supported.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  the 
rapidity  of  walking  is  an  index  of  the  degree  of  excitation, 
and  not  of  the  happy  or  unhappy  condition  of  the  mind. 
When  a  person  suddenly  undergoes  a  strong  impression, 
either  pleasant  or  unpleasant,  he  takes  to  walking  actively 
about  in  his  room,  and  may  even  want  to  go  out  of  doors 
to  walk  more  quickly.  A  letter  which  has  been  received 
and  which  gives  some  unexpected  news,  as  for  instance 
of  the  infidelity  of  a  person  one  loves,  or  of  an  inheritance 
which  one  did  not  expect,  produces  a  condition  of  excite- 
ment shown  chiefly  by  rapid  walking.  Many  orators  and 
professors  have  to  make  gestures  and  to  walk  about  in 
the  course  of  their  lectures.  A  man  of  science  to  whom 
some  new  idea  comes  and  who  wishes  to  out,  rises 
from  his  chair  and  begins  to  walk.  But  not  only  on  such 
pleasant  occasions,  but  when  one  has  to  face  an  insult  or 
an  act  of  defiance  which  makes  one  very  angry,  the  need 
to  walk  actively  is  felt.  It  is  therefore  impossible  to  utilise 
records  of  movements  in  the  study  of  the  pessimistic  state 
of  mind. 


M.  Kowalevsky  employed  still  another  mode  of  attack- 
ing the  problem.  He  examined  the  recollection  of  painful 
or  pleasant  impressions.  He  asked  the  children  of  both 
sexes,  whom  he  was  investigating,  questions  which  gave 
him  indications  as  to  whether  pleasures  or  pains  made  the 
more  lasting  impression  on  the  memory,  and  he  registered 
the  answers.  The  result,  which  agreed  with  what  had 
already  been  obtained  by  Mr.  Colegrove,  an  American 
psychologist,  was  unfavourable  to  the  pessimistic  view. 
He  found,  in  fact,  that  in  the  majority  of  cases  (70  per 
cent.)  recollection  of  pleasant  impressions  predominated. 
However,  in  such  investigations  there  is  a  facile  source  of 
error  arising  from  the  condition  of  mind  of  those  who  are 
being  questioned.  It  is  probable  that  Kowalevsky  made 
his  enquiry  in  school  during  recreation  time,  when  most 
of  the  pupils  were  free  from  the  boredom  of  the  actual 
class.  When  we  are  happy  the  tendency  exists  in  us  to 
recall  pleasant  impressions  of  the  past.  If  the  enquiry  had 
been  made  during  a  difficult  or  wearying  lesson,  or  on 
children  shut  up  in  a  hospital,  or  undergoing  punishment, 
it  is  probable  that  the  result  would  have  been  reversed. 

It  is  evident  that  all  such  attempts  to  solve  a  problem 
so  complex  as  that  of  pessimism,  even  by  the  so-called 
exact  methods  of  physiological  psychology,  cannot  lead  to 
any  convincing  result.  Thus  Kowalevsky's  different  in- 
vestigations led  to  contradictory  conclusions.  Whilst  some 
of  his  series  of  facts  supported  the  pessimistic  conception, 
others  were  opposed  to  it,  and  he  obtained  no  definite 
general  conclusion.  How  can  one  expect  to  apply  a 
method  of  measurement  to  sensations  and  emotions  so 
different,  not  only  from  the  qualitative  point  of  view, 
but  also  in  relation  to  their  intensity  ?  Take,  for  instance, 
the  case  of  an  individual  who  has  experienced  in  one  day 
nine  sensations  which  were  painful  and  one  which  was 


agreeable.  According  to  the  valuation  of  experimental 
psychologists,  he  ought  to  have  reason  to  become  a  pessi- 
mist. However,  this  may  be  far  from  the  case,  if  the  nine 
painful  impressions  were  much  weaker  than  the  single 
happy  impression.  The  first  were  provoked  by  small 
wounds  to  his  pride,  fleeting  pains  of  no  importance,  and 
small  losses  of  money,  whilst  the  happy  emotion  came  from 
receiving  a  love  letter.  The  sum  of  the  ten  impressions 
would  be  a  happy  one,  and  might  well  put  him  in  an  opti- 
mistic frame  of  mind.  The  learned  attempts  of  experimental 
psychologists  must  be  abandoned,  as  incapable  of  illumina- 
ting the  problem.  If,  however,  the  human  spirit  still  seeks 
some  means  of  explaining  the  psychology  of  pessimism, 
there  remains  only  the  less  subtle  method  given  by  the  bio- 
graphical study  of  human  beings. 



Relation  between  pessimism  and  the  state  of  the  health — 
History  of  a  man  of  science  who  was  pessimistic  when  young, 
and  who  became  an  optimist  in  old  age — Optimism  of 
Schopenhauer  when  old — Development  of  the  sense  of  life — 
Development  of  the  senses  in  blind  people — The  sense  of 

ANIMALS  and  children  in  good  health  are  generally  cheerful 
and  of  optimistic  temperament.  As  soon  as  they  fall  ill 
they  become  sad  and  melancholy  until  their  recovery.  We 
may  infer  from  this  that  an  optimistic  view  is  correlated 
with  normal  health,  whilst  pessimism  arises  from  some 
physical  or  mental  disease.  And  so  in  the  case  of  the 
prophets  of  pessimism,  we  may  seek  for  the  origin  of  their 
views  in  some  affliction.  The  pessimism  of  Byron  has 
been  attributed  to  his  club-foot,  and  that  of  Leopardi  to 
tuberculosis,  these  two  nineteenth  century  exponents  of  pes- 
simism having  died  whilst  young.  Buddha  and  Schopen- 
hauer, on  the  other  hand,  reached  old  age,  whilst  Hart- 
mann  died  when  sixty-four  years  old.  Their  diseases  at  the 
time  when  they  formed  their  theories  could  not  have  been 
very  dangerous,  and  none  the  less  they  took  a  most  gloomy 
view  of  human  existence.  The  recent  historical  investiga- 
tions of  Dr.  Iwan  Bloch1  make  it  very  probable  that 
Schopenhauer,  in  his  youth,  contracted  syphilis.  There 
1  Meduinische  Klinik,  1906,  n.  25  and  26. 


has  been  found  a  note-book  of  the  great  philosopher  in 
which  he  wrote  down  the  details  of  the  severe  mercurial 
treatment  which  he  had  to  undergo.  The  disease,  how- 
ever, was  not  contracted  until  several  years  after  the  appear- 
ance of  his  great  pessimistic  work. 

Although  we  must  attach  due  weight  to  the  connection 
between  disease  and  pessimism,  we  can  assure  ourselves 
that  the  problem  is  more  complex  than  it  appears  at  first 
sight.  It  is  well  known  that  blind  people  often  enjoy  a 
constant  good  humour,  and,  amongst  the  apostles  of  op- 
timism, there  has  been  the  philosopher  Duering,1  who  lost 
his  sight  during  his  youth. 

Moreover,  it  has  been  noticed  that  persons  affected  with 
chronic  diseases  frequently  have  a  very  optimistic  concep- 
tion of  life,  whilst  young  people  in  full  strength  may 
become  sad,  melancholic,  and  abandoned  to  the  most  ex- 
treme pessimism.  Such  a  contrast  has  been  well  described 
by  Emile  Zola  in  his  novel  La  Joie  de  Vivre,  where  a 
rheumatic  old  man,  tried  by  severe  attacks  of  gout,  main- 
tained his  good  humour,  whilst  his  young  son,  although 
vigorous  and  in  good  health,  professed  extreme  pessi- 

I  have  a  cousin  who  lost  his  sight  in  early  youth.  When 
he  grew  up  he  formed  a  most  enviable  judgment  of  life.  He 
lived  in  his  imagination  and  everything  in  life  seemed  to 
him  good  and  beautiful ;  he  married,  and  pictured  his  wife 
to  himself  as  the  most  beautiful  woman  in  the  world,  and 
thus  he  feared  nothing  more  than  the  recovery  of  his  sight. 
He  had  adapted  himself  to  live  without  sight,  and  was  con- 
vinced that  the  reality  was  much  lower  than  his  imagina- 
tion. He  feared  that  if  he  were  able  to  see  his  wife  she 
would  appear  to  him  less  beautiful. 

1  Der  Werth  des  Lebens. 


I  know  a  girl  twenty-six  years  old,  blind  from  her  birth, 
the  subject  of  infantile  paralysis  and  liable  to  fits  of 
epilepsy.  She  is  nearly  an  idiot,  lives- in  a  carriage,  and 
sees  life  from  its  best  side.  She  is  certainly  the  most 
happy  member  of  all  her  family. 

The  good  humour  and  megalomania  of  those  affected 
with  general  paralysis  of  the  insane  also  is  well  known.  All 
such  examples  show  that  pessimism  cannot  be  explained  as 
depending  on  bad  health. 

Examination  of  the  state  of  mind  of  a  pessimist  may 
throw  some  light  on  the  subject.  There  has  been  within 
my  own  circle  a  typical  case  of  a  person  who  went  through 
a  phase  of  life  in  which  everything  seemed  as  gloomy  as 
possible.  My  intimate  knowledge  of  him  makes  it  possible 
to  apply  my  observations  to  the  matter  under  discussion. 

The  subject  was  born  of  parents  of  good  health  and  in 
comfortable  circumstances,  so  that,  from  the  beginning  of 
his  life,  he  was  surrounded  by  a  favourite  environment.  He 
lived  in  the  country  and  escaped  the  diseases  of  childhood, 
so  that  he  reached  maturity  in  good  health,  and  passed  well 
through  college  and  the  university.  Science  attracted  him, 
and  he  had  the  ambition  to  become  a  distinguished  investi- 
gator. He  threw  himself  into  a  scientific  career  with  zeal 
and  ability.  His  ardent  disposition,  although  certainly 
favourable  to  work,  was  the  cause  of  many  troubles.  He 
wished  to  succeed  too  quickly,  and  the  obstacles  he  encoun- 
tered embittered  him.  As  he  thought  himself  naturally 
talented,  he  conceived  it  to  be  the  duty  of  his  seniors  to  aid 
his  development.  And  so,  when  he  met  with  natural  and 
very  common  indifference  from  those  who  had  already  b£- 
come  successful,  the  young  man  thought  that  there  was  a 
plot  against  him,  to  bring  to  nothing  his  scientific  talents. 
From  this  view,  many  quarrels  and  difficulties  arose,  and  as 


he  could  not  overcome  these  sufficiently  quickly,  he  fell 
into  a  mood  of  pessimism.  In  this  life,  he  said  to  himself, 
the  main  thing  is  to  adapt  oneself  to  external  conditions. 
According  to  Darwin's  law  of  natural  selection,  the  indivi- 
duals who  do  not  succeed  in  adapting  themselves  go  to  the 
wall.  The  survivors  are  not  the  best  but  only  the  most 
cunning.  In  the  history  of  the  earth  it  has  been  seen  that 
many  lower  animals  have  long  survived  creatures  much 
higher  in  organisation  and  general  evolution.  Whilst  so 
many  of  the  higher  mammals,  the  nearest  relatives  of  man, 
have  been  crushed  out  of  existence,  simpler  animals,  such 
as  evil-smelling  cockroaches,  have  survived  from  the  re- 
motest times,  and  multiply  in  the  neighbourhood  of  man 
in  despite  of  his  efforts  to  exterminate  them.  The  animal 
series  and  human  evolution  itself  show  that  delicacy  of  the 
nervous  system,  with  its  concomitant  extreme  development 
of  the  sensibilities,  hinders  the  power  of  adaptation  and 
brings  with  it  insuperable  evils.  The  least  blow  to  his  pride, 
or  a  slighting  word  from  a  comrade,  threw  this  pessimist 
into  a  most  painful  condition.  No,  he  would  cry,  it  would 
be  better  to  be  without  friends,  if  one  is  to  be  wounded  so 
deeply  by  them.  It  would  be  best  to  seclude  oneself  in 
some  remote  spot  and  be  engrossed  in  one's  work.  He  was 
very  impressionable  and  a  lover  of  music,  and  from  his 
visits  to  the  opera,  he  retained  in  his  mine!  an  air  from  the 
"  Flute  enchantee."  "  Were  I  as  small  as  a  snail,  I  would 
hide  myself  in  my  shell."  His  moral  hypersensibility  was 
associated  with  physical  hyperaesthesia.  Noises  of  all 
kinds,  such  as  the  whistling  of  railway-trains,  the  cries  of 
street-vendors,  or  the  barking  of  dogs,  excited  extremely 
painful  sensations.  The  least  trace  of  light  prevented  him 
from  sleeping  at  night.  The  unpleasant  flavour  of  most 
drugs  made  it  impossible  for  him  to  take  medicine.  He 


agreed  thoroughly  with  the  pessimistic  philosophers  who 
declare  that  the  ills  of  life  far  surpass  the  good  things.  He 
required  no  experiments  on  the  sense  of  taste  to  convince 
him.  He  believed  that  the  organisation  of  his  body  pre- 
vented him  from  becoming  adapted  to  external  conditions 
and  that  he  would  have  to  disappear  like  the  mammoth  and 
the  anthropoid  apes. 

The  course  of  his  life  confirmed  the  convictions  of  our 
pessimist.  He  had  no  private  fortune  and  married  a  woman 
who  became  affected  with  tuberculosis,  and  so  was  con- 
fronted with  the  greatest  evils  of  existence.  A  young  lady, 
hitherto  in  good  health,  contracted  influenza  in  some 
northern  town.  It  was  a  mere  nothing,  said  the  doctors; 
influenza  is  everywhere  and  no  one  escapes  it;  after  a  little 
patience  and  rest,  she  will  be  well  again.  However  the 
"  influenza  "  persisted  and  brought  with  it  feebleness  and 
wasting.  The  doctors  then  found  that  there  was  a  little 
dullness  in  the  apex  of  the  left  lung,  but  as  there  was  no  bad 
family  history,  there  was  nothing  to  fear.  I  need  not 
describe  the  familiar  course  of  events.  The  trifling  influ- 
enza was  replaced  by  degeneration  of  the  left  lung,  and 
brought  death  after  four  years  of  great  suffering.  Towards 
the  end,  when  there  was  no  hope,  the  patient  found  her  only 
solace  in  morphine.  Under  the  influence  of  that  drug,  she 
passed  hours  free  from  pain  and  in  relative  calm,  but  her 
excited  imagination  passed  almost  into  hallucination. 

It  is  not  surprising  that  the  death  of  his  wife  was  a  severe 
shock  to  the  husband.  His  pessimism  became  complete. 
He  was  a  widower  at  the  age  of  twenty-eight  years,  and,  in 
his  condition  of  mental  and  physical  exhaustion,  took  to 
morphine  like  his  wife.  He  knew  that  it  was  a  poison  which 
would  complete  the  ruin  of  his  constitution  and  make  his 
work  impossible.  But  what  was  the  value  of  his  life?  As 


his  organisation  was  too  nervous  for  him  to  adapt  himself 
10  external  conditions,  was  it  not  as  well  to  come  to  the  aid 
of  natural  selection  and  so  make  room  for  others  ?  As  it  hap- 
pened, a  large  dose  of  morphia  did  not  solve  the  problem. 
It  produced  in  him  a  condition  of  extraordinary  happiness 
combined  with  extreme  physical  weakness.  Little  by  little 
the  instinct  of  life  awoke  in  him,  and  he  resumed  his  work. 
Pessimism,  however,  remained  the  fundamental  quality  in 
his  character.  Life  was  not  worth  the  pains  necessary  to 
protect  it.  It  would  be  a  true  crime  to  bring  into  the  world 
other  living  beings  doomed  to  elimination  by  natural  selec- 
tion. Moral  and  physical  sensibility,  as  they  continued  to 
develop,  brought  with  them  so  much  evil  that  there  could 
be  no  good  end.  The  "  injustice"  of  those  who  were  un- 
willing to  "  understand  "  him  made  life  painful  to  the  man 
himself  and  to  those  about  him.  The  closest  absorption 
and  hard  work  made  his  existence  more  tolerable,  but  his 
pessimistic  conception  was  not  in  the  least  altered.  Thus, 
he  was  easily  driven  to  morphia  for  consolation,  when  he 
suffered  from  some  act  of  "injustice"  or  vexation.  A 
severe  fit  of  poisoning,  however,  stopped  this  excess. 

Years  passed.  When  he  discussed  with  his  friends  the 
problem  of  the  goal  of  human  life  and  similar  topics,  he 
was  always  ardent  in  supporting  the  point  of  view  of  pes- 
simism. However,  he  occasionally  wondered  if  his  pleading 
for  this  were  really  sincere.  As  his  nature  was  honest  and 
frank,  this  question  which  he  put  to  his  conscience  appeared 
most  curious  to  him.  Analysis  of  what  passed  in  his  mind 
revealed  to  him  a  change.  It  was  not  that  his  conceptions 
had  changed  in  the  course  of  years,  but  rather  his  feelings 
and  sensations.  As  he  was  now  in  full  maturity,  between 
forty-five  and  fifty  years  old,  he  found  that  there  was  a  great 
change  in  the  intensity  of  these  last.  Disagreeable  sounds 


did  not  trouble  him  to  the  same  extent  as  formerly,  and 
he  was  undisturbed  by  the  caterwauling  of  cats  or  by  harsh 
street  cries.  As  his  hypersensibility  diminished  his 
character  became  more  tolerant.  Even  the  injustices  or 
wounds  to  his  pride  which  formerly  drove  him  to  mor- 
phia, no  longer  provoked  in  him  any  painful  reaction.  He 
could  easily  conceal  the  bad  effect  of  these  upon  him,  and 
no  longer  felt  them  with  the  same  intensity.  Thus  his 
character  had  become  much  more  supportable  to  those  with 
him,  and  much  better  balanced. 

"  It  is  old  age  which  is  come  upon  me,"  he  cried ;  "  I  feel 
painful  impressions  much  less  acutely  and  pleasant  impres- 
sions have  less  effect  on  me.  The  relative  proportions  of  the 
two  remain  as  before,  that  is  to  say,  unpleasant  things  still 
impress  me  much  more  strongly  than  pleasant  things."  By 
analysing  and  comparing  his  emotions,  he  discovered  some- 
thing new,  in  fact  that  some  impressions  were,  so  to  speak, 
neutral.  As  he  was  less  sensitive  to  unharmonious  sounds, 
and  at  the  same  time  less  affected  by  music  itself,  he  found 
himself  in  a  more  tranquil  condition.  Awakening  in  the 
middle  of  the  night,  he  experienced  a  kind  of  happiness 
which  reminded  him  -of  that  formerly  produced  by  mor- 
phine, and  which  was  characterised  by  his  hearing  no  sound, 
either  pleasant  or  unpleasant.  He  became  less  disgusted 
by  drugs,  but  at  the  same  time  indifferent  to  the  pleasures 
of  the  table  which  he  had  appreciated  in  his  youth.  He 
also  delighted  in  consuming  more  and  more  simple  food. 
A  piece  of  black  bread  and  a  glass  of  water  became  real 
treats  to  him.  Insipid  dishes,  which  he  formerly  despised, 
were  now  specially  agreeable  to  him. 

Just  as  in  the  evolution  of  art,  violent  coloration  has 
yielded  to  the  low  tones  of  Puvisde  Chavannes,  as  views  of 
fields  and  meadows  are  preferred  to  those  of  mountains  and 


lakes ;  just  as  in  literature,  tragic  and  romantic  studies  have 
been  successfully  replaced  by  scenes  of  daily  life,  so  the 
psychical  development  of  my  friend  displayed  a  similar 
change.  Instead  of  taking  his  pleasure  in  mountains  or  in 
places  famed  for  their  picturesqueness,  he  was  content  to 
watch  the  budding  of  the  leaves  of  the  trees  of  his  garden, 
or  a  snail  overcoming  its  fears  and  putting  out  its  horns. 
The  simplest  occurrences,  such  as  the  lisping  or  the  smile 
of  a  baby  or  the  first  words  of  a  child,  became  sources  of 
real  delight  to  this  elderly  man  of  science.  What  was  the 
meaning  of  these  changes  which  took  so  many  years  to 
be  accomplished?  It  was  the  growth  of  his  sense  of  life. 
The  instinct  of  life  is  little  developed  in  youth.  Just  as  a 
young  woman  gets  more  pain  than  pleasure  from  the  earlier 
part  of  her  married  life,  just  as  a  new-born  baby  cries,  so 
the  impressions  from  life,  especially  when  they  are  very 
keenly  felt,  bring  more  pain  than  pleasure  during  a  long 
period  of  human  life.  The  sensations  and  feelings  are  not 
stable;  they  undergo  evolution,  and  when  that  takes  place 
more  or  less  normally,  it  brings  about  a  state  of  psychical 

And  thus  my  friend,  formerly  so  entrenched  in  pessimism, 
came  to  share  my  optimistic  view  of  life.  The  discussions 
that  we  had  had  for  so  many  years  ended  in  complete  agree- 
ment. "  However,"  said  he,  "  to  understand  the  value  of 
life,  one  must  have  lived  long ;  otherwise  one  is  in  the  posi- 
tion of  a  man  blind  from  his  birth  to  whom  are  recounted 
the  beauties  of  colours."  In  a  word,  my  friend  towards  the 
end  of  his  life  changed  from  abject  pessimism  to  complete 

Such  a  transformation  or  evolution  cannot  be  regarded 
as  unusual.  In  The  Nature  of  Man,  I  showed  that  most 
of  the  great  pessimistic  writers  had  been  young  men. 


Such  were  Buddha.  Byron,  Leopardi,  Schopenhauer,  Hart- 
mann,  and  Mailaender,  and  there  might  be  added  many 
other  names  of  less  well  known  men. 

The  question  has  often  been  asked  why  Schopenhauer, 
who  was  certainly  sincere  in  his  philosophy  and  who  ex- 
tolled Nirvana  as  the  perfect  state,  came  to  have  a  strong 
attachment  to  life,  instead  of  putting  it  to  a  premature  end 
as  was  done  later  on  by  Mailaender.  The  reason  was  that 
the  philosopher  of  Frankfort  lived  long  enough  to  acquire 
a  strong  instinct  of  life.  M.  Moebius,1  a  well-known  autho- 
rity on  madness,  has  made  a  close  investigation  of  Schopen- 
hauer's biography,  and  has  established  the  fact  that  towards 
the  end  of  his  life  his  views  were  tinged  with  optimistic 
colours.  On  his  seventieth  anniversary,  he  took  pleasure  in 
the  consoling  idea  of  the  Hindoo  Oupanischad  and  of 
Flourens  that  the  span  of  man's  life  might  reach  a  century. 
As  Moebius  put  it,  "  Schopenhauer  as  an  old  man  enjoyed 
life  and  was  no  longer  a  pessimist  "  (p.  94).  Not  long 
before  his  death  he  still  hoped  to  survive  yet  another 
twenty  years.  It  is  true  that  Schopenhauer  never 
recanted  his  early  pessimistic  writings,  but  that  was 
probably  because  he  did  not  fully  realise  his  own  mental 

In  looking  through  the  work  of  modern  psychologists,  I 
cannot  find  recognition  of  the  cycle  of  evolution  of  the 
human  mind.  In  Kowalevsky's  able  and  conscientious 
study  of  pessimism,  I  was  specially  struck  by  one  phrase. 
"  Evils  such  as  hunger,  disease,  and  death  are  equally  ter- 
rible at  all  stages  of  life  and  in  every  rank  of  society" 
(p-  95)  said  that  author.  I  notice  here  a  failure  to  recog- 
nise the  modification  of  the  emotions  in  the  course  of  life 
which,  none  the  less,  is  one  of  the  great  facts  of  human 
1  Ueber  Schopenhauer,  Leipzig,  1899. 


nature.  Fear  of  death  is  by  no  means  equally  great  at 
all  stages  of  life.  A  child  is  ignorant  of  death  and  has 
no  conscious  aversion  from  it.  The  youth  and  the  young 
man  know  that  death  is  a  terrible  thing,  but  they  have  not 
the  horror  of  it  that  comes  to  a  mature  man  in  whom  the 
instinct  of  life  has  become  fully  developed.  And  we  see 
that  young  men  are  careless  of  the  laws  of  hygiene,  whilst 
old  men  devote  to  them  sedulous  attention.  This  differ- 
ence is  probably  a  notable  cause  of  pessimism  in  young 
men.  In  his  studies  of  the  mind,  Moebius  :  has  stated  his 
view  that  pessimism  is  a  phase  of  youth  which  is  succeeded 
by  a  serener  spirit.  "  One  may  remain  a  pessimist  in 
theory,"  he  says,  "  but  actually  to  be  one,  it  is  necessary 
to  be  young.  As  years  increase,  a  man  clings  more  firmly 
to  life."  "  When  an  old  man  is  free  from  melancholia,  he 
is  not  a  pessimist  at  heart."  "We  cannot  yet  explain 
clearly  the  psychology  of  the  pessimism  of  the  young,  but 
at  least  we  can  lay  down  the  proposition  that  it  is  a  disease 
of  youth"  (p.  182). 

The  cases  of  Schopenhauer  and  of  the  man  of  science 
whose  psychical  history  I  have  sketched  fully  confirm  the 
view  of  the  alienist  of  Leipzig. 

The  conception  that  there  is  an  evolution  of  the  instinct 
of  life  in  the  course  of  the  development  of  a  human  being 
is  the  true  foundation  of  optimistic  philosophy.  It  is  so 
important  that  it  should  L?  examined  with  the  minutest 
care.  Our  senses  are  capable  of  great  cultivation.  Artists 
develop  the  sense  of  colour  far  beyond  the  point  attained  by 
ordinary  men,  and  distinguish  shades  that  others  do  not 
notice.  Hearing,  taste,  and  smell  also  can  be  educated. 
Wine  tasters  have  an  appreciation  of  wine  much  more  acute 
than  that  of  other  men.  A  friend  of  mine,  who  does  not 
1  Moebius,  Goethe,  vol.  i,  Leipzig,  1903. 


drink  wine,  can  distinguish  burgundy  from  claret  only  by 
the  shapes  of  the  bottles,  but  is  devoted  to  tea  and  has  a 
very  fine  palate  for  different  blends.  I  do  not  know  if  a 
good  palate  is  a  natural  gift,  but  however  this  may  be,  it  is 
certain  that  the  palate  can  be  brought  to  a  high  condition 
of  perfection. 

The  development  of  the  senses  is  specially  notable  in 
the  case  of  the  blind  in  whom  other  powers  become  ex- 
tremely acute.  As  I  thought  that  investigation  of  the 
educability  of  other  senses  in  blind  persons  very  important 
from  the  point  of  view  of  the  development  of  the  sense  of 
life,  I  have  tried  to  obtain  the  best  available  information 
on  the  question.  The  perfection  of  touch  in  the  blind  is 
accepted  so  generally  as  a  truth  that  one  would  have  ex- 
pected to  find  convincing  facts  in  its  favour.  However,  it 
is  not  true.  Griesbach,1  using  a  well-known  method  for 
estimating  tactile  discrimination,  found  that  the  sense  of 
touch  is  not  more  acute  in  the  blind  than  in  normal  persons. 
Blind  persons  distinguished  the  points  of  a  pair  of  com- 
passes as  separate,  only  when  they  were  at  least  as  far  apart 
as  in  case  of  normal  persons.  Dr.  Javal,2  a  well-known 
oculist  who  himself  became  blind,  stated  his  surprise  at  find- 
ing that  "  tactile  discrimination  is  quite  notably  less  acute  in 
the  case  of  the  blind  than  in  the  case  of  those  with  unimpaired 
vision.  For  instance,  the  index  finger  of  a  blind  man  who 
was  a  great  reader  got  separate  sensations  from  the  points 
of  a  pair  of  compasses  only  when  these  were  three  milli- 
metres apart,  whilst  a  man  with  normal  sight  had  the 
double  sensation  at  a  distance  of  two  millimetres  "  (p.  123). 
Griesbach  goes  still  farther,  stating  that  neither  hearing 

1  V.  Kunz,  "  Zur  Blindenphysiologie,"   Wiener  medicin.  Wochenschrift, 
1902,  No.  21. 
•  Physiologic  de  la  Lecture  et  de  f£criture,  Paris,  1905. 



nor  smell  is  better  developed  in  the  blind  than  amongst 
normal  people.  Although  these  senses  may  come  to  re- 
place to  a  certain  extent  the  sense  of  sight,  this  occurs 
merely  because  the  blind  person  uses  impressions  which 
the  clear-sighted  person  hardly  notices.  As  we  see  what 
is  going  on  around  us,  we  do  not  concentrate  our  attention 
on  the  different  sounds  and  smells  or  other  such  pheno- 
mena. The  blind  person,  on  the  other  hand,  not  being 
absorbed  by  impressions  of  sight,  gives  attention  to  the 
others.  Such  and  such  a  sound  tells  him  that  the  garden 
gate  of  his  neighbour  has  been  opened  to  let  out  a  carriage 
which  he  must  avoid.  A  particular  smell  lets  him  recog- 
nise the  place  where  he  is,  as  stable  or  kitchen. 

From  the  prese'nt  point  of  view,  it  is  not  exactly  the 
acuteness  of  the  senses  which  is  most  important.  The 
acuteness  might  be  equal  in  a  blind  person  and  in  a  normal 
person.  It  might  even  be  greater  in  the  latter,  and  yet  it 
is  only  the  blind  person  who  can  decipher  without  difficulty 
raised  points  so  as  to  understand  their  meaning  as  well  as 
when  a  normal  person  reads  a  printed  book.  This  power 
of  the  blind  person  is  developed  only  after  a  long  period 
of  learning,  and  depends  on  the  appreciation  of  very  deli- 
cate tactile  impressions.  I  must  point  out,  moreover,  that 
the  method  of  deciding  by  means  of  a  pair  of  compasses 
gives  information  only  with  regard  to  one  side  of  the  tactile 

However,  although  we  admit  that  blind  people  do  not 
really  gain  anything  in  the  four  remaining  senses,  there 
is  developed  in  them  a  special  kind  of  sensibility,  which  is 
spoken  of  in  their  case  as  a  sixth  sense,  the  "sense  of 
obstacles."  Blind  people,  especially  those  who  have  lost 
their  sight  in  youth,  acquire  a  surprising  habit  of  avoiding 
obstacles  and  of  recognising  at  a  distance  objects  round 


about  them.  Blind  children,  for  instance,  can  play 'in  a 
garden,  without  knocking  themselves  against  the  trees. 

Dr.  Javal1  states  that  some  blind  people,  when  passing  in 
front  of  a  house,  can  count  the  ground  floor  windows.  A 
professor,  who  had  been  blind  from  the  age  of  four  years, 
could  walk  in  the  garden  without  striking  against  a  tree 
or  post.  He  appreciated  a  wall  at  a  distance  of  two  metres 
from  it.  One  day,  going  for  the  first  time  into  a  large 
apartment,  he  recognised  the  presence  of  a  big  piece  of 
furniture  in  the  middle,  which  he  took  to  be  a  billiard  table. 

Another  blind  man,  walking  in  the  street,  could  distin- 
guish houses  from  shops  and  could  count  the  number  of 
doors  and  windows.  The  existence  of  this  sense  of  ob- 
stacles rests  upon  so  many  exact  facts  that  it  is  indubitable. 
The  opinions  as  to  the  mechanism  by  which  it  operates, 
however,  are  very  varied.  Dr.  Zell 2  thinks  that  it  is  not 
a  sense  peculiar  to  blind  people  and  "that  those  of  normal 
sight  could  equally  well  acquire  it  by  practice,  because  it 
exists  in  nearly  everyone  without  being  noticed."  None 
the  less,  there  are  some  blind  people  who,  even  in  the  course 
of  years,  do  not  acquire  it.  M.  Javal,  for  instance,  learnt 
to  read  with  his  fingers  extremely  well,  but  was  never  able 
to  distinguish  obstacles  at  a  distance. 

The  most  probable  hypothesis  refers  this  sixth  sense  to 
the  action  of  the  tympanic  membrane  and  the  auditory 
apparatus.  It  is  known  that  loud  noise  makes  it  more 
difficult  to  perceive  obstacles,  and  snow,  by  dulling  the 
sound  of  steps,  has  a  precisely  similar  effect.  Blind  tuners, 
in  whom  the  sense  of  hearing  is  well  developed,  have  the 
sixth  sense  very  marked. 

The  examples  I  have  given  show  that  the  human  body 
possesses  senses  which  come  into  operation  only  in  special 

1  Entre  aveugles,  Paris,  1903.         2  Der  Blindenfreund^  Feb.  i5th,  1906. 

S    2 


conditions,  and  which  require  a  special  education.  The 
"sense  of  life"  to  a  certain  extent  comes  within  this 
category.  In  some  persons  it  develops  very  imperfectly, 
generally  revealing  itself  only  late  in  life,  but  some- 
times a  disease  or  the  danger  of  losing  life  stimulates  its 
earlier  development.  Occasionally  in  persons  who  have 
tried  to  commit  suicide,  a  strong  instinct  of  life  wakens 
suddenly,  and  impels  them  to  make  frantic  efforts  to  escape. 

It  happens,  therefore,  that  the  sense  of  life  develops 
sometimes  in  healthy  people,  sometimes  in  those  who  suffer 
from  acute  or  chronic  disease.  These  variations  are  parallel 
with  the  development  of  the  sexual  instinct,  which  in  some 
women  is  completely  absent  and  in  others  develops  only 
very  late.  In  certain  cases,  it  is  awakened  only  by  special 
conditions,  such  as  child-birth,  or  even  some  defect  of 

As  the  sense  of  life  can  be  developed,  special  pains  ought 
to  be  taken  with  it,  just  as  with  the  making  perfect  of  the 
other  senses  in  the  blind.  Young  people  who  are  inclined 
to  pessimism  ought  to  be  informed  that  their  condition  of 
mind  is  only  temporary,  and  that  according  to  the  laws  of 
human  nature  it  will  later  on  be  replaced  by  optimism. 




Goethe's  youth — Pessimism  of  youth — Werther — Tendency 
to  suicide — Work  and  love — Goethe's  conception  of  life  in 
his  maturity 

THERE  can  be  drawn  from  analysis  of  the  lives  of  great  men 
information  that  is  very  important  in  the  study  of  the  con- 
stitution of  man.  I  have  chosen  Goethe  for  several 
reasons.  He  was  a  man  of  genius  distinguished  by  the 
comprehensive  character  of  his  ability.  He  was  a  poet  and 
dramatist  of  the  highest  rank,  his  mind  was  stored  with 
the  most  varied  knowledge,  and  he  contributed  to  the  ad- 
vancement of  natural  science.  As  minister  of  state  and  as 
the  director  of  a  theatre,  he  was  occupied  with  practical 
affairs.  He  reached  the  age  of  eighty-three  years,  and  he 
passed  through  the  phases  of  life  in  relatively  normal 
circumstances ;  in  his  many  writings  there  are  most  valuable 
facts  which  throw  a  keen  light  on  his  life  and  nature.  The 
Goethe  cult  in  Germany  has  brought  about  the  existence 
of  fuller  biographical  details  than  exist  regarding  any  other 
great  man.  He  aspired  to  lead  "the  higher  life,"  and, 
throughout  his  existence,  he  occupied  himself  with  the 
most  serious  problems  of  humanity. 

It  is  not  surprising  that  Goethe  became  a  subject  of 


investigation  for  me,  but  as  the  main  facts  as  to  his  history 
are  widely  known  I  need  not  elaborate  them  here. 

Goethe  was  reared  in  circumstances  that  were  favourable 
in  every  respect,  and  from  his  earliest  years  showed  re- 
markable traits.  As  his  memory  was  good  and  his  ima- 
gination vast,  the  study  of  ancient  and  modern  languages 
and  the  routine  curriculum  of  a  classical  education  were 
little  more  than  an  amusement  to  him.  The  rich  library 
of  his  father  placed  all  sorts  of  books  at  his  disposal,  and 
whilst  he  was  still  young  he  devoted  himself  to  reading 
with  the  enthusiasm  and  passion  that  were  the  chief  quali- 
ties of  his  character.  When  he  was  fifteen  years  old  he 
began  to  write  verses,  although  he  was  still  unconscious 
of  his  destiny  as  a  poet.  He  intended  to  be  a  learned  man, 
and  looked  forward  to  the  career  of  a  professor. 

At  the  age  of  sixteen,  he  entered  the  University  of  Leip- 
zig with  the  intention  of  studying  natural  science  seriously. 
Law  and  philosophy  interested  him  but  little;  he  turned  to 
natural  science  and  medicine,  although  his  actual  study 
was  rather  superficial.  His  disposition  was  lively  and  rest- 
less; he  made  many  friends,  frequented  the  theatre  and 
plunged  into  all  kinds  of  gaiety.  Extracts  from  letters  he 
wrote  during  this  period  show  the  kind  of  life  he  led. 
When  he  was  a  student,  eighteen  years  old,  he  wrote  to  a 
friend,  "  And  so  good-night;  I  am  drunk  as  a  hog."  A 
month  later,  to  the  same  friend,  he  summed  up  his  life  as 
a  "delirium  in  the  arms  of  Jetty." 

He  graduated  in  law  at  Strassburg,  and  became  a 
barrister,  but  realising  that  such  a  career  was  unsuitable, 
he  became  a  man  of  letters,  encouraged  by  the  success  of 
his  first  literary  efforts. 

From  the  point  of  view  of  a  writer,  he  sought  all  kinds  of 
experiences.  He  devoted  himself  to  literature  and  science, 


including  even  the  occult  sciences,  and  frequented  the 
theatre  and  society.  He  was  specially  attracted  by  the 
imaginative  side  and  gave  little  thought  to  the  problems  of 
science.  "  I  must  have  movement,"  he  wrote  in  one  of 
his  note-books. 

When  he  was  young,  his  temper  was  violent  and  he  fell 
into  fits  of  passionate  rage.  His  contemporaries  have  re- 
lated that  when  he  was  in  such  a  condition  he  would  destroy 
the  illustrations  and  tear  up  the  books  on  his  work-table. 
These  experiences  have  been  vividly  described  in  his 
famous  romance,  The  Sorrows  of  Werther.  I  shall  give 
a  few  extracts  to  show  the  exact  state  of  mind  of  the  young 
pessimist.  "It  is  the  fate  of  some  men  not  to  be  under- 
stood." "  Human  life  is  a  dream  ;  I  am  not  the  first  to  say 
that,  but  the  idea  haunts  me.  When  I  reflect  on  the  narrow 
limits  which  circumscribe  the  powers  of  man,  his  activities 
and  intelligence;  when  I  see  how  we  exhaust  our  forces  in 
satisfying  our  wants  and  that  these  wants  are  for  no  more 
than  the  prolongation  of  a  miserable  existence;  that  our 
acquiescence  in  so  much  is  merely  resignation  engendered 
by  dreams,  like  that  of  a  prisoner  who  has  covered  the 
walls  of  his  cell  with  pictures  and  new  landscapes;  such 
things,  my  friend,  plunge  me  into  silence."  "Our learned 
teachers  all  agree  that  children  do  not  know  why  they  have 
desires;  but  that  grown  men  should  move  on  the  earth 
like  children,  and,  like  these,  be  ignorant  whence  they  have 
come  and  whither  they  go,  like  these  strive  little  for  real 
things,  but  be  ruled  by  cakes  and  sweets  and  rods;  no  one 
will  believe  such  things,  though  their  truth  is  patent.  I 
admit  readily  (for  I  know  what  you  will  say)  that  they  ape 
the  happiest  men  who  live  from  day  to  day  like  children, 
who  play  with  their  dolls,  dress  them  and  undress  them, 
who  reverence  the  cupboard  where  mamma  keeps  the 


gingerbread,  and  who,  when  they  have  got  what  they  wish, 
cry,  with  their  mouths  full,  '  How  happy  we  are  !  '  ' 

Werther  proclaimed  his  pessimism  before  his  romance 
with  Charlotte,  and  it  was  his  view  of  life  that  made  his 
love-affair  turn  out  unhappily.  But  the  fame  of  Goethe's 
Werther  was  due,  not  to  the  tragic  fate  of  the  young  lover, 
but  to  the  general  views  which  were  in  harmony  with  the 
conception  of  the  world  held  by  the  best  minds  of  the  time. 
Byronism  was  born  before  Byron. 

Werther  affords  a  good  illustration  of  the  disharmonies 
in  the  development  of  man's  psychical  nature.  Inclination 
and  desires  develop  extremely  strongly  and  before  will. 
Just  as  in  the  development  of  the  reproductive  functions, 
as  I  showed  in  The  Nature  of  Man,  the  different  factors 
develop  unequally  and  unharmoniously,  so  there  is  in- 
equality and  disharmony  in  the  order  of  the  appearance  of 
the  higher  psychical  faculties.  Sexual  appreciation  and  a 
vague  attraction  to  the  other  sex  appear  at  a  time  when 
there  can  be  no  possibility  of  the  normal  physical  side  of 
sex,  with  the  result  that  many  evils  come  about  in  the  long 
period  of  youth.  The  precocious  development  of  sensi- 
bility brings  about  a  kind  of  diffused  hyperaesthesia  which 
may  lead  to  trouble.  The  infant  wishes  to  lay  hold  of 
everything  he  sees  before  him  ;  he  stretches  out  his  arms  to 
grasp  the  moon  and  suffers  from  his  inability  to  gratify  his 
desires.  In  youth  there  is  still  well-marked  disharmony. 
Young  people  cannot  realise  the  true  relations  of  things,  and 
formulate  their  desires  before  they  understand  that  their  will- 
power is  not  strong  enough  to  gratify  them,  as  will  is  the 
latest  of  the  human  powers  to  develop. 

Werther  fell  in  love  with  a  kindred  spirit  and  gave  way 
to  his  passion  without  consideration  of  the  difficulties, 
Charlotte  being  already  betrothed  to  another.  This  is  the 


plot  of  the  tragedy  of  the  young  man,  who  committed1 
suicide,  having  given  way  to  pessimism.  He  had  not  the 
will-power  to  conquer  his  sentiments  and  so  fell  into  a  state 
of  lassitude,  until,  weary  of  life,  he  could  see  no  other  end 
than  to  blow  out  his  brains. 

I  need  not  linger  over  the  last  phase  of  the  story  of 
Werther,  for  it  is  the  character  of  Goethe  himself  that  is  of 
interest.  Goethe  was  able  to  subdue  his  passion  for  Lotte, 
and,  after  many  amorous  woes,  consoled  himself  with 
another  woman.  Notwithstanding  this  difference,  it  is  cer- 
tain that  in  Werther,  Goethe  was  telling  part  of  the  story 
of  his  own  youth.  Goethe  himself  is  a  witness  to  this,  for 
in  a  letter  to  Kestner  he  wrote  that  "  he  was  at  work  on  the 
artistic  reproduction  of  his  own  case."  The  letter  was 
written  in  July,  1773,  whilst  Goethe,  then  a  writer  twenty- 
four  years  old,  was  relating  the  sorrows  of  young  Werther. 

The  general  tendency  of  Werther  has  been  described 
excellently  by  Carlyle.1  "  Werther,"  he  wrote,  "  is  but  the 
cry  of  that  dim,  rooted  pain,  under  which  all  thoughtful 
men  of  a  certain  age  were  languishing ;  it  paints  the  misery, 
it  passionately  utters  the  complaint ;  and  heart  and  voice, 
all  over  Europe,  loudly  and  at  once  responded  to  it." 
Werther  was  "  the  first  thrilling  peal  of  that  impassioned 
dirge  which,  in  country  after  country,  men's  ears  have  lis- 
tened to,  till  they  were  deaf  to  all  else." 

In  the  pessimistic  period  of  his  life,  Goethe  often  cherished 
the  idea  of  suicide.  In  his  biography  he  relates  that  at  this 
time  he  used  to  have,  by  his  bedside,  a  poisoned  dagger, 
and  that  he  had  repeatedly  tried  to  plunge  it  in  his  bosom. 
Of  these  times  he  wrote  to  his  friend  Zelter2 — "I  kno"w 

1  Critical  and  Miscellaneous  Essays,  vol.  i,  pp.  164-5,  'n  ^e  Essay  on 

2  Briefwechsel  zwischen  Goethe  und  Zelter.     Letter  of  Dec.  3,  1812. 


what  it  has  cost  me  in  effort  to  resist  the  waves  of  death." 
The  suicide  which  was  the  subject  .of  the  end  of  his  romance 
made  a  deep  impression  upon  him.  Although  he  overcame 
his  passion  for  Charlotte,  his  view  of  life  remained  tinged 
with  pessimism  for  many  years;  in  a  note-book  of  1773,  for 
instance,  he  wrote  "  I  am  not  made  for  this  world."1  These 
words  are  the  more  striking  as  they  date  from  a  period  when 
exact  ideas  regarding  the  adaptation  of  the  organism  and 
the  character  to  the  environment  did  not  exist.  Goethe, 
with  his  too  delicate  sensibility,  felt  himself  out  of  harmony 
w'ith  his  environment. 

It  is  very  interesting  to  trace  Goethe's  subsequent  de- 
velopment and  the  transformation  of  a  youthful  pessimist 
into  a  convinced  optimist.  Goethe  found  a  remedy  for  his 
crises  of  grief  in  work,  poetical  creation  and  love.  He 
declared  that  the  mere  describing  his  woes  on  paper  brought 
assuagement.  The  tears  that  they  shed  console  women  and 
children  ;  and  the  poetry  in  which  he  expresses  his  suffer- 
ing consoles  the  poet.  Goethe's  romance  writh  Charlotte 
was  not  quite  at  an  end  when  he  found  himself  ready  to 
love  her  sister  Helen.  He  wrote  to  Kestner  in  December, 
1772: — "I  was  about  to  ask  you  if  Helen  had  arrived, 
when  I  got  the  letter  telling  me  of  her  return."  "  To  judge 
from  her  portrait  she  must  be  charming,  even  more  charm- 
ing than  Charlotte.  Well,  I  am  free  and  I  am  thirsting 
for  love."  "  I  am  here  at  Frankfort  again  with  new  plans 
and  new  dreams,  and  all  will  be  well  if  I  find  someone  to 
love."  Soon  afterwards,  in  another  letter  to  Kestner,  he 
wrote: — "Tell  Charlotte  that  I  have  found  here  a  girl 
whom  I  love  with  all  my  heart;  if  I  wanted  to  marry,  I 
should  choose  her  before  anyone  else." 

As  he  had  not  yet  realised  his  true  vocation,  Goethe 
became  a  court  minister  at  Weimar.  He  devoted  himself 
1  Quoted  in  Moebius'  Goethe,  vol.  ii,  p.  80. 


to  his  duties  with  an  enthusiasm  that  carried  him  far  beyond 
the  usual  affairs  of  state.  He  wished  to  deepen  his  know- 
ledge of  such  administrative  problems  as  the  construction 
of  roads  and  the  management  of  mines,  and  he  studied 
geology  and  mineralogy  with  a  real  zest.  Forest  adminis- 
tration and  agriculture  led  him  seriously  into  botany,  and  as 
he  had  the  direction  of  a  school  of  design,  he  thought  it 
necessary  to  learn  anatomy.  Such  varied  work  gave  him 
a  real  taste  for  science.  It  was  no  longer  the  superficial 
interest  that  characterised  his  work  at  Leipzig  and  Strass- 
burg  but  a  true  devotion  which  led  him  to  important  dis- 
coveries, some  of  which  have  become  classic. 

Even  such  varied  occupations  did  not  absorb  his  pro- 
digious genius.  In  his  leisure  he  wrote  poetry  and  prose. 
Engrossed  in  so  much  work,  he  was  happy.  His  discovery 
of  the  human  intermaxillary  bone  suffused  him  with  joy. 
His  intense  activity  was  strengthened  by  his  love  for 
Madame  von  Stein,  a  love  that  he  declared  was  "  a  life-belt 
supporting* him  in  the  sea."  A  few  hours  with  her  in  the 
evenings  set  free  his  soul. 

The  powerful  influence  of  love  on  the  life  of  Goethe  was 
specially  prominent  in  this  period  when  he  was  passing 
from  pessimistic  youth  to  optimistic  maturity.  Being 
forced  to  separate  from  Madame  von  Stein,  he  gave  way  to 
grief  that  plunged  him  again  in  the  worst  hours  of  his  life. 
At  the  age  of  thirty-seven  he  fell  back  into  a  crisis  like  that 
of  the  days  of  Werther.  "I  have  discovered,"  he  said  in 
1786,  "  that  the  author  of  Werther  would  have  done  well  to 
blow  out  his  brains  when  he  had  finished  his  work."  Soon 
afterwards  he  wrote  that  "death  would  have  been  better 
than  the  last  years  of  his  life." 

This  relapse  into  pessimism  was  shorter  and  less  acute 
than  his  first  experience.  He  began  to  find  that  frequently 
his  delight  in  existence  and  sense  of  life  were  proved  by  his 


fear  of  death.  When  he  was  little  more  than  thirty  years 
old,  he  began  to  take  precautions  against  the  chance  of  his 
death.  He  wrote  to  Lavater : — "  I  have  no  time  to  lose; 
I  am  already  getting  on  in  years,  and  it  may  be  that  fate 
will  destroy  me  in  the  midst  of  my  life."  On  all  sides  his 
wish  to  live  and  his  shrinking  from  death  reveal  themselves. 
It  was  at  this  time,  a  few  days  after  his  thirty-first  birthday, 
that  he  wrote  those  famous  lines,  counted  amongst  the 
finest  of  his  poetry,  on  the  summit  of  the  Gickelhahn,  on 
the  wall  of  a  small  room,  and  which  end  with  the  presenti- 
ment of  his  own  death,  "  Before  long,  you  also  will  be  at 

The  crisis  through  which  he  passed  at  the  age  of  thirty- 
seven,  as  the  immediate  result  of  his  separation  from 
Madame  von  Stein,  but  perhaps  also  partly  due  to  brain 
fatigue,  brought  about  his  sudden  departure  from  Weimar 
and  his  long  sojourn  in  Italy.  There  he  came  to  life  again, 
and  everything  interested  him,  archaeology,  art  and  nature. 
The  joy  of  life  came  back  to  him,  and  he  soon  consoled  him- 
self for  the  lost  love  of  the  blue-stocking  Baroness  in  the 
arms  of  a  pretty,  blue-eyed  girl  of  Milan.  This  girl,  whose 
name  was  MaddalenaRiggi,  like  Charlotte,  was  already  be- 
trothed, a  circumstance,  however,  that  had  a  different  result. 
Even  after  she  had  given  up  the  man  to  whom  she  had  been 
engaged,  Goethe  avoided  any  permanent  bond  and  soon 
abandoned  her  definitely.  He  chose  to  associate  with 
Faustine,  another  Italian  girl,  with  whom  he  lived  during 
the  last  period  of  his  stay  at  Rome.  This  affair,  which  was 
less  ideal  and  much  simpler  than  his  love  for  Madame  von 
Stein,  he  has  described  in  his  Roman  Elegies,  which  throw 
a  vivid  light  on  his  temperament.  I  shall  give  some  char- 
acteristic extracts. 

"  A  sacred  enthusiasm  inspires  me  on  this  classic  soil ; 
the  old  world  and  the  world  around  me  raise  their  voices 


and  draw  me  to  them.  Here  I  follow  the  ideas  and  turn 
over  the  pages  of  the  ancient  writers,  giving  myself  no  rest 
whilst  day  lasts  and  ever  reaching  new  delights.  By  night 
love  calls  me  to  other  cares ;  and  if  I  am  only  half  a  philo- 
sopher, I  am  twice  happy.  But  may  I  not  say  that  I  am 
also  learning  when  my  eye  follows  the  contours  of  a  loving 
breast,  when  with  my  hand  I  trace  the  lines  of  her  form  ? 
It  is  then  that  I  understand  marble,  I  think  and  compare,  I 
see  with  an  eye  that  touches  and  touch  with  a  hand  that 
sees."  "Often  I  have  made  verses  in  her  arms;  often  my 
playful  finger  has  softly  beaten  out  my  hexameters  on  her 
back.  As  she  breathes  in  her  sweet  sleep,  her  breath  burns 
me  to  my  innermost  soul."  1 

His  stay  in  Italy  brought  Goethe  definitely  to  maturity. 
On  this  important  stage  in  his  life  let  us  hear  his  bio- 
grapher, Bielschowsky.  "  The  voyage  to  Italy  made  a 
new  man  of  him.  His  sickliness  and  nervousness  dis- 
appeared. The  melancholy  which  led  him  to  think  of  early 
death  and  made  him  regard  death  as  better  than  the  former 
conditions  of  his  life  was  replaced  by  a  sublime  serenity 
and  joy  in  living.  The  taciturn  and  preoccupied  man  who 
in  no  society  abandoned  his  grave  thoughts  had  become 
happy  as  a  child  "  (vol.  i,  p.  412).  "  From  this  time  on, 
in  calm  and  enviable  security,  he  passed  through  the  cycle 
of  life  which  seemed  so  mysterious  to  others.  Goethe 
became  the  serene  Olympian,  the  wonder  of  posterity, 
whilst  many  of  his  contemporaries  no  longer  saw  in  him 
the  passionate  pilgrim  "  (ibid.,  p.  417). 

It  was  after  reaching  the  age  of  forty  years  that  Goethe 
entered  on  the  optimistic  phase  of  his  life.  fr 

1  The  Fifth  Roman  Elegy,  Blaze's  French  translation,  1873  p.  186. 
Some  of  Goethe's  biographers,  and  amongst  them  G.  H.  Lewes,  maintain 
that  these  lines  relate  to  Christine,  Goethe's  xvife.  This  is  erroneous  ; 
they  refer  to  Faustine  (see  Bielschowsky,  i,  p.  517). 



Goethe's  optimistic  period — His  mode  of  life  in  that  period — 
Influence  of  love  in  artistic  production — Inclinations  towards 
the  arts  must  be  regarded  as  secondary  sexual  characters — 
Senile  love  of  Goethe — Relation  between  genius  and  the 
sexual  activities 

THE  moral  equilibrium  of  the  great  writer  was  not  estab- 
lished once  for  all.  In  the  course  of  his  life,  Goethe  had 
several  relapses  into  pessimism  which,  however,  were  ephe- 
meral, and  after  which  he  became  a  man  as  complete  and 
harmonious  as  was  possible  in  the  circumstances  of  his  life. 
He  reached  a  serene  old  age,  and  his  activity  did  not  relax 
until  after  his  eightieth  year,  when  he  died. 

As  I  have  already  said,  Goethe  realised  the  value  of  life 
in  good  time.  Having  become  an  optimist,  he  experienced 
the  joy  of  existence  and  coveted  as  much  of  it  as  possible. 
When  he  was  an  old  man,  he  declared  that  life,  like  the 
Sibylline  books,  became  more  valuable  the  fewer  of  them 
were  left.  There  appeared  in  him  a  normal  phase  of  human 
nature.  The  conditions  under  which  he  lived,  however, 
were  far  from  ideal.  His  health  was  indifferent.  In  his 
youth  he  suffered  from  severe  haemorrhage,  probably  tuber- 
culous, and  throughout  his  life  he  was  subject  to  various 
more  or  less  serious  maladies,  such  as  gout,  colic,  nephritis, 
and  intestinal  troubles.  His  habits  were  unwholesome.  He 


was  brought  up  in  a  region  of  vineyards,  and  in  his  youth 
he  acquired  the  habit  of  drinking  wine  in  quantities  cer- 
tainly harmful.  This  he  himself  realised,  and  when  he  was 
thirty-one  years  old,  after  he  had  acquired  the  instinct  of 
life,  he  gave  it  serious  attention.  "  I  wish  I  could  abstain 
from  wine,"  he  wrote  in  his  note-book.  Some  weeks  later 
he  wrote,  "  I  now  drink  almost  no  wine."  x 

But  he  had  not  the  strength  of  character  to  remain  tem- 
perate, and  soon  after  his  decision,  he  had  fits  of  bleeding 
at  the  nose,  which  he  attributed  to  "  having  taken  some 
glasses  of  wine."  2  To  his  last  day,  he  took  wine  regularly, 
and  sometimes  to  excess.  J.  H.  Wolff,  who  dined  with  him 
at  Weimar,  when  he  was  in  his  eightieth  year,  was  sur- 
prised by  his  appetite  and  by  the  quantity  of  wine  he 
drank.  "In  addition  to  other  food,  he  ate  an  enormous 
portion  of  roast  goose,  and  drank  a  bottle  of  red  wine."3 
In  Eckermann's  interesting  narrative  of  the  last  ten  years 
of  Goethe's  life  (1822 — 1832)  there  is  repeated  mention  of 
wine.  Goethe  seized  every  occasion  to  drink  it.  Some- 
times it  was  the  visit  of  a  stranger,  sometimes  a  present  of 
some  famous  vintage.  It  was  said  that  he  drank  from  one 
to  two  bottles  of  wine  daily  (Moebius).  None  the  less,  he 
was  convinced  that  wine  was  not  good  for  intellectual  work. 
He  had  remarked  that  when  his  friend  Schiller  had  drunk 
more  than  usual,  to  increase  his  strength  and  stimulate  his 
literary  activity,  the  result  was  deplorable.  He  said  to 
Eckermann  (March  11,  1828),  "He  will  ruin  his  health 
and  will  spoil  his  work.  That  is  why  he  has  made  the 
faults  the  critics  have  pointed  out."  In  another  conversa- 
tion (March  u,  1828)  he  stated  that  what  was  written 

1  Moebius'  Goethe,  vol.  ii,  pp.  84-87. 

2  Moebius'  Goethe,  vol.  ii,  pp.  84-87. 

3  Quoted  by  Bode  in  Goethe's  Lebenskunst,  Berlin,  1905,  p.  59. 


under  the  influence  of  wine  was  abnormal  and  forced,  and 
ought  to  be  deleted. 

Love  was  the  great  stimulus  of  Goethe's  genius.  The 
love  affairs,  the  histories  of  which  fill  his  biography,  are 
well  known.  Many  have  been  shocked  by  them;  others 
have  tried  to  justify  them.  It  has  been  suggested  that  his 
disposition  made  it  necessary  for  him  to  impart  his  ideas 
and  obtain  sympathy  for  them,  and  that  his  love  for  women 
was  the  expression  of  a  purely  artistic  feeling  and  had 
nothing  in  common  with  the  ordinary  passion. 

The  truth  is  that  artistic  genius  and  perhaps  all  kinds  of 
genius  are  closely  associated  with  sexual  activity.  I  agree 
with  the  proposition  formulated  by  Dr.  Moebius1  that 
"artistic  proclivities  are  probably  to  be  regarded  as 
secondary  sexual  characters."  Just  as  the  beard  and  some 
other  male  characters  are  developed  as  means  of  attracting 
the  female  sex,  so  also  bodily  strength,  strong  voice  and 
many  of  the  talents  must  be  regarded  as  due  to  the  need  to 
fulfil  the  sexual  relations.  In  primitive  conditions  woman 
worked  more  than  man ;  man's  superior  force  served  him 
principally  in  fighting  with  other  males,  the  object  of  the 
combats  usually  being  possession  of  a  woman.  Just  as  a 
victorious  combatant  covets  the  presence  of  a  woman  as 
witness  of  his  prowess,  so  an  orator  speaks  better  in  the 
presence  of  a  woman  to  whom  he  is  devoted.  Singers  and 
poets  are  stimulated  in  their  arts  by  the  love  they  awaken. 
Poetic  genius  is  intimately  associated  with  sexual  power 
and  castration  inhibits  it.  Just  as  castrated  animals  retain 
their  physical  strength,  but  become  changed  in  character, 
losing  in  particular  their  combative  nature,  so  a  man  of 
genius  loses  much  of  his  quality  with  the  sexual  function. 
Amongst  the  eunuchs  on  record,  Abelard  is  the  only  poet, 
1  Ueber  die  Wirkungen  d.  Castration,  Halle,  1903,  p.  82. 


but  Abelard  was  forty  years  old  when  he  ceased  to  be  a 
man,  and  at  the  same  time  he  ceased  to  be  a  poet.  Many 
singers  have  been  eunuchs,  but  they  have  been  merely 
executants,  and  have  taken  no  part  in  musical  creation. 
Some  musical  composers  have  been  eunuchs,  but  these 
were  of  mediocre  ability  and  their  names  have  been  for- 
gotten. When  castration  has  taken  place  at  an  early  age, 
it  has  a  much  more  powerful  influence  in  modifying  the 
secondary  sexual  characters. 

From  the  point  of  view  of  a  naturalist,  I  cannot  agree 
with  the  moralists  who  have  blamed  Goethe  for  his  sexu- 
ality, nor  do  I  share  the  views  of  those  defenders  of  him 
who  have  wished  to  deny  the  facts  or  to  explain  them  away 
by  the  suggestion  that  they  did  not  relate  to  sexual  love. 

Extracts  from  the  Roman  Elegies  show  quite  clearly 
what  was  the  nature  of  Goethe's  love  affairs.  His  feelings 
towards  the  Baroness  von  Stein  have  been  taken  as  reveal- 
ing merely  idealistic  love.  But  some  of  his  letters  to  her 
are  clear  evidence  that  their  relations  were  erotic  (Moebiirs, 
Goethe,  vol.  ii,  p.  89).  The  love  which  he  bore  for 
Minna  Herzlieb,  the  girl  who  inspired  him  to  write  Elec- 
tive Affinities  (Wahlverivandschaften),  has  been  described 
by  Goethe  himself  in  a  poem  so  crudely  erotic  that  it  has 
been  impossible  to  publish  it  (Lewes,  vol.  ii,  p.  314). 

A  fact  to  which  I  specially  desire  to  call  attention  is  that 
Goethe's  amorous  temperament  survived  until  the  end  of 
his  life,  and  all  the  world  has  been  astonished  by  the  vigour 
of  his  poetic  genius  in  extreme  old  age. 

Goethe  has  been  the  subject  of  derision  because  at  the 
age  of  seventy-four  years  he  fell  deeply  in  love  with  UlriquQ. 
de  Lewetzow,  who  was  quite  a  young  girl.  This  incident, 
however,  merits  close  attention  as  it  is  a  typical  case  of 
senile  love  in  a  man  of  genius. 



Whilst  he  was  at  Carlsbad,  Goethe  became  acquainted 
with  a  pretty  girl  seventeen  years  old,  with  beautiful  blue 
eyes,  brown  hair,  and  of  an  ardent,  good-humoured  and 
happy  disposition.  In  the  first  two  seasons  nothing  in 
particular  happened.  But  in  the  third  summer,  at  Marien- 
bad,  Goethe  became  passionately  enamoured  of  Ulrique, 
who  was  then  nineteen  years  old  and  in  the  full  bloom  of 
her  young  womanhood.  His  love  made  him  young  again; 
he  passed  long  hours  with  her  and  took  to  dancing  with 
her.  "  I  am  quite  certain,"  he  wrote  to  his  son,  "that  it 
is  many  years  since  I  have  enjoyed  such  health  of  body 
and  mind"  (Aug.  30,  1823).  His  passion  became  so 
serious  that  the  Grand  Duke  of  Saxe- Weimar,  on  behalf 
of  his  friend,  made  a  formal  proposal  of  marriage  for 
Mademoiselle  de  Lewetzow.  The  mother  gave  an  evasive 
answer,  and  the  matter  rested  in  suspense  for  long,  and 
ended  in  a  refusal.  Goethe  withdrew  to  his  family,  but 
encountered  there  strong  opposition  to  his  project  of 

This  misadventure  troubled  the  old  poet  so  seriously  that 
he  fell  ill.  He  suffered  from  pain  in  the  region  of  the  heart 
and  from  profound  mental  disturbance.  He  complained  to 
Eckermann  "  that  he  could  do  nothing,  that  he  could  get  to 
work  on  nothing,  and  that  his  mind  had  lost  its  power." 
"  I  can  no  longer  work,"  he  said.  "  I  cannot  even  read, 
and  it  is  only  in  rare  and  fortunate  moments  that  I  can 
think,  feeling  myself  partially  soothed  "  (Eckermann,  Nov. 
16,  1823).  Eckermann  makes  the  following  reflection  on 
the  state  of  mind  of  the  great  old  man.  "His  trouble 
seems  to  be  not  merely  physical.  The  passionate  desire 
which  he  acquired  for  a  young  lady  at  Marienbad  this 
summer,  and  against  which  he  is  still  struggling,  must  be 
regarded  as  the  chief  cause  of  his  illness  "  (Nov.  17,  1823). 


As  in  all  earlier  crises,  Goethe  sought  consolation  in 
poetry  and  love.  He  left  Marienbad  in  a  carriage  and 
began  to  set  down  verses  astonishingly  vigorous  for  so  old 
a  man.  His  Marienbad  elegy  is  held  to  be  one  of  the  best 
of  his  poetical  achievements.  The  following  extracts  will 
give  an  idea  of  his  state  of  mind  at  that  period. 

"  I  am  lost  in  unconquerable  desire;  there  is  nothing  left 
but  everlasting  tears.  Let  them  flow,  let  them  flow  unceas- 
ingly. But  they  can  never  extinguish  the  fire  that  burns 
me.  My  heart  rages;  it  is  torn  in  pieces,  this  heart  where 
life  and  death  meet  in  a  horrible  combat."  "I  have  lost 
the  universe,  I  have  lost  myself,  I  who  until  now  have  been 
the  favourite  of  the  gods ;  they  have  put  me  to  the  question, 
they  offered  me  Pandora,  rich  in  treasure  and  still  richer  in 
perilous  seductions ;  they  made  me  drunken  with  the  kisses 
of  her  mouth,  which  gave  me  its  sweets;  they  have  torn 
me  from  her  arms,  and  have  struck  me  with  death." 

Goethe  concealed  his  elegy  for  some  time,  guarding  it  as 
something  sacred,  but  eventually  handed  it  over  to  Ecker- 
mann.  Poetic  creation  soothed  his  mind  only  for  a  time. 
His  nature  demanded  some  more  efficacious  consolation.  A 
few  weeks  after  the  separation  he  began  to  complain  bitterly 
of  the  absence  of  the  Countess  Julie  von  Egloffstein,  whom 
he  wanted  very  much.  "She  cannot  know  what  she  is 
keeping  from  me  and  what  she  makes  me  lose,  nor  can 
she  know  how  I  love  her  and  how  she  engrosses  my 
mind."  He  derived  a  little  comfort  from  the  visits  of 
Madame  Szymanowska,  whom  he  admired  "not  only  as  a 
great  artist,  but  as  a  pretty  woman  "  (Eckermann,  Nov.  3, 
1823).  "  I  am  deeply  grateful  to  this  charming  woman," 
he  said  to  the  chancellor,  "  for  her  beauty,  her  sweetness, 
and  her  art  have  soothed  my  passionate  heart  "  (Bode,  p. 
151).  He  also  renewed  his  relations  with  Marianne  Jung, 


the  retired  actress  and  dancer.  "When  Goethe  had  to 
turn  his  thoughts  from  Ulrique,  the  image  of  the  pretty 
owner  of  Gerbermuhle  again  occupied  his  mind.  A  visit 
to  her,  and  intimate  correspondence  with  her,  restored  peace 
to  his  heart  so  greedy  of  love"  (Bielschowsky,  vol.  ii, 
p.  487). 

His  devotion  to  Ulrique  was  Goethe's  last  acute  attack  of 
love ;  but  until  the  end  of  his  days  he  felt  the  need  of  being 
surrounded  by  pretty  women.  As  director  of  the  theatre, 
he  came  in  contact  with  many  young  women  who  wished 
engagements.  He  confessed  to  Eckermann  that  he  required 
much  strength  of  mind  to  resist  feminine  charms  which 
tempted  him  to  be  unjustly  favourable  to  the  prettiest  of 
those  who  sought  employment.  "  If  I  allowed  myself  to 
fall  into  an  intrigue  of  gallantry,  I  would  become  like  a  de- 
magnetised needle  as  soon  as  the  girl  found  a  real  lover  " 
(Eckermann,  March  22,  1825). 

His  daughter-in-law's  sister  has  related  that  Goethe  liked 
to  have  young  girls  in  his  study  whilst  he  was  at  work. 
They  had  to  sit  quietly,  neither  working  nor  talking,  often 
a  difficult  task  for  them  (Bode,  p.  155). 

Even  on  the  last  day  of  his  life,  whilst  in  delirium,  he 
cried  out,  "What  a  pretty  woman's  head  with  black  curls 
on  a  black  ground  "  (Lewes,  vol.  ii,  p.  372).  After  utter- 
ing several  other  more  or  less  incoherent  phrases,  he  drew 
his  last  breath. 

The  facts  which  I  described  in  the  chapter  of  this  book 
dealing  with  old  age  have  made  clear  how  long 
sexuality  persists  in  men.  As  the  testes  resist  atrophy 
better  than  other  organs,  and  even  in  extreme  old  age  still 
form  active  spermatozoa,  it  is  natural  that  their  condition 
should  be  reflected  on  the  organism  generally,  and  that  feel- 
ings of  love  should  still  be  excited.  If  by  some  accident 


Goethe  had  become  a  eunuch  early  in  life,  he  would  have 
been  a  different  being.  The  moralists  who  have  been 
shocked  by  his  amorous  intrigues  would  have  been  satis- 
fied, but  the  world  would  have  lost  a  great  poet.  More- 
over, Goethe  is  no  exceptional  case  amongst  writers.  The 
temperament  of  Victor  Hugo  and  his  devotion  to  women  up 
to  the  end  of  his  days  are  well  known.  More  recently,  after 
the  death  of  Ibsen,  a  profound  sensation  was  made  by  the 
revelation  of  his  love  for  Mademoiselle  Bardach,  who  in- 
spired his  genius  during  the  last  period  of  his  life. 

Not  only  poetic  creation  but  other  forms  of  genius  are 
intimately  associated  with  the  sexual  function.  The  philo- 
sopher Schopenhauer,  who  was  no  ascetic,  wrote  as  follows, 
at  the  age  of  twenty-five,  when  he  was  in  full  creative 
activity,  "  In  the  days  and  at  the  hours  when  the  voluptu- 
ous instinct  is  strongest,  when  it  is  a  burning  covetousness, 
it  is  then  that  the  greatest  forces  of  the  mind  and  the  greatest 
stores  of  knowledge  are  ready  for  the  most  intense  activity." 
"At  such  moments  life  is  truly  at  its  strongest  and  most 
active,  for  its  two  poles  are  then  operating  most  actively ; 
and  this  is  plain  in  the  man  of  the  highest  intelligence.  In 
these  hours  one  sees  more  than  in  years  of  passivity  " 
(quoted  in  Moebius'  Schopenhauer,  p.  55).  "  This  means 
that  in  Schopenhauer  intellectual  creation  was  linked  with 
erotic  excitement  "  (ibid.,  p.  57). 

It  was  facts  of  such  a  nature  that  led  Brown-Sequard  to 
his  idea  of  strengthening  cerebral  activity  by  injections  of 
the  substance  of  testes.  To  obtain  the  same  effect,  he  pre- 
scribed another  means,  the  value  of  which  was  proved  in 
the  case  of  two  individuals  aged  from  forty-five  to  fifty 
years,  the  observations  being  continued  over  several  years. 
"By  my  advice,"  he  said,  "when  these  had  to  perform 
any  great  physical  or  intellectual  work,  they  got  themselves 


into  a  condition  of  sexual  excitement."  "  The  testes  being 
in  this  way  thrown  into  functional  activity,  there  was  soon 
produced  the  desired  increase  in  the  power  of  the  nerve 

Although  I  insist  on  the  existence  of  a  close  relation 
between  intellectual  activity  and  the  sexual  function,  I  do 
not  mean  to  assert  that  there  have  not  existed  exceptions 
to  the  rule. 

Now  that  I  have  described  certain  important  factors  in 
the  genius  of  Goethe,  I  shall  pass  on  to  a  study  of  his  state 
of  mind  in  the  last  period  of  his  life,  the  splendour  and 
harmony  of  which  have  been  so  often  admired. 

1  Comptes  rendus  de  la  Socitte  de  Biologic,  1889,  p.  420. 



Old  age  of  Goethe — Physical  and  intellectual  vigour  of  the 
old  man — Optimistic  conception  of  life — Happiness  in  life 
in  his  last  period 

DRINKERS  of  wine  may  take  the  case  of  Goethe  as  an  argu- 
ment against  temperance.  Although  he  was  not  healthy  in 
his  youth,  his  large  consumption  of  wine  did  not  prevent 
him  from  enjoying  an  old  age  full  of  force  and  intellectual 
work.  Eckermann,  who  was  his  intimate  and  constant 
companion  in  the  last  ten  years  of  his  life,  was  never  weary 
of  expressing  his  surprise  and  delight  at  the  physical  and 
moral  vigour  of  the  distinguished  old  man.  He  found 
Goethe  on  his  return  to  Jena,  at  the  age  of  seventy-four,  in  a 
condition  "  very  pleasant  to  see ;  he  was  in  good  health  and 
robust,  so  that  he  could  walk  for  hours  "  (Sept.  15,  1823). 
His  eyes  were  "brilliant  and  clear  and  his  whole  expres- 
sion was  that  of  joy,  vigour  and  youth"  (Oct.  29).  In 
walks  with  Eckermann,  Goethe  forced  the  pace  and  showed 
strength  which  rilled  his  companion  with  delight  (March, 
1824).  His  voice  was  full  of  character  and  of  force  (March 
30,  1824),  and  every  word  showed  his  vitality  (July  9, 

In  a  conversation  that  Eckermann  had  with  Goethe  when 
the  latter  was  seventy-nine  years  old  "  the  sound  of  his 
voice  and  the  fire  in  his  eyes  were  of  such  strength  as  would 


have  been  normal  in  the  full  flush  of  youth"  (Mar.  11, 
1828).  Such  characters  were  preserved  until  the  end  of  the 
life  of  the  great  man,  and  a  few  months  before  his  death 
Eckermann  jotted  in  his  book  that  he  saw  him  every  day  in 
full  vigour  and  freshness,  looking  as  if  his  health  might  be 
prolonged  indefinitely  (Dec.  21,  1831).  In  the  beginning  of 
the  following  spring,  Goethe  caught  a  feverish  cold,  pos- 
sibly pneumonic,  and  died,  probably  from  weakness  of  the 
heart.  His  illness  lasted  a  week.  If  he  had  not  been  a 
drinker  of  wine  he  would  have  been  able  to  withstand  this 
attack  and  to  live  still  longer. 

The  intellectual  vigour  of  Goethe  was  even  greater  and 
more  remarkable  than  his  physical  strength.  His  interests 
were  extremely  wide,  and  his  thirst  for  knowledge  was 
never  appeased.  Once,  when  he  was  absorbed  by  the  in- 
terest of  hearing  d'Alton  describe  in  detail  the  skeleton  of 
rodents,  Eckermann  states  his  surprise  that  a  man  not  far 
short  of  eighty  years  old  "  did  not  give  up  seeking  for  and 
gaining  knowledge."  But  in  these  matters  he  never  lost  his 
interest.  He  wished  always  to  go  further  and  further, 
always  to  learn,  so  showing  himself  to  be  a  man  of  eternal 
and  undying  youth  (April  16,  1825).  Goethe's  aptitude  for 
understanding  and  his  memory  were  most  unusual.  When 
he  was  more  than  eighty,  he  surprised  those  who  heard 
him  "  by  the  incessant  flow  of  his  ideas  and  by  his  extra- 
ordinary fertility  in  invention  "  (Oct.  7,  1828). 

"  The  old  age  of  Goethe  is  the  most  striking  proof  of  the 
extreme  force  of  his  constitution,"  said  his  medical  bio- 
grapher, Dr.  Moebius.  Works  which  were  written  in  his 
last  years  are  for  the  most  part  beyond  praise,  both  because 
of  their  finished  form,  and  by  their  wisdom  and  feeling. 
What  other  man  of  eighty  has  written  anything  of  the 
same  character?  From  the  physiological  point  of  view  I 


am  more  surprised  at  his  works  when  he  was  old  than  at  those 
of  his  youthful  activity"  (Moebius,  Goethe,  i,  200,  201). 

Although  Goethe's  character,  which  was  fiery  and  intense 
in  his  youth,  became  much  more  calm  with  age,  there  still 
came  to  him  moments  when  he  was  carried  away.  He  had 
certain  eccentricities  of  an  old  man,  and  in  particular  was 
often  very  despotic,  and  this  trait  has  been  the  occasion  of 
many  stories.  His  temper,  however,  became  much  more 
certain  in  his  old  age,  and  his  general  conceptions  much 
more  optimistic.  Apart  from  certain  short  crises,  he  was 
happy  in  his  life.  In  1828,  he  settled  down  at  Dornburg 
and  there  passed  a  tranquil  existence.  "  I  stay  out  of 
doors  nearly  all  day  and  engage  in  private  conversations 
with  the  tendrils  of  the  vine  which  communicate  their 
excellent  ideas  to  me,  ideas  about  which  I  shall  have 
marvellous  things  to  tell  you  " — he  wrote  to  Eckermann  on 
June  15,  1828 — "  I  am  composing  verses  which  are  quite 
good,  and  I  hope  that  it  will  be  given  to  me  to  live  long 
in  this  condition.  I  am  quite  contented,"  he  said  to  his 
collaborator,  "at  the  beginning  of  spring,  when  I  see  the 
first  green  leaves,  I  am  pleased  to  watch  how,  from  week 
to  week,  one  leaf  after  another  appears  on  the  stem.  I  am 
delighted  in  May,  when  I  see  a  flower-bud ;  I  feel  really 
happy,  when  in  June  the  rose  offers  to  me  its  splendour  and 
its  perfume"  (Eckermann,  April  27,  1825).  His  delight 
in  life  at  this  epoch  is  also  revealed  in  many  letters.  "  I 
wish  to  whisper  this  in  your  ear,"  he  wrote  to  Zelter  on 
April  29,  1830.  "I  am  delighted  to  find  that  even  at 
my  great  age,  ideas  come  to  me  the  pursuit  and  de- 
velopment of  which  wrould  require  a  second  life." 

His  conception  of  life  had  changed  enormously  since  the 
epoch  of  Werther.  Goethe  himself  said:  "When  one  is 
old,  one  thinks  many  things  about  this  world  quite 
different  from  when  one  was  young  "  (Eckermann,  Dec.. 


1829).  The  youthful  sensitiveness  which  had  brought  him 
so  much  suffering  was  notably  dulled.  Eckermann  was 
astonished  at  the  way  he  accepted  wounds  to  his  pride.  It 
happened  that  his  design  for  the  new  theatre  at  Weimar 
was  abandoned  while  it  was  being  constructed,  and  re- 
placed by  another  not  his  own  work.  Eckermann  was 
much  disturbed  by  this,  and  went  to  see  Goethe  in  a  state 
of  apprehension.  "I  was  afraid,"  he  said,  "that  so  un- 
expected a  step  would  profoundly  wound  Goethe.  Well, 
there  was  nothing  of  the  sort;  I  found  him  in  the  best  of 
tempers,  quite  calm,  absolutely  above  all  feelings  in  the 
matter."  When  he  had  reached  his  eighty-fourth  year, 
Goethe  had  no  weariness  of  life.  In  his  last  illness,  he 
showed  not  the  smallest  desire  to  die.  He  expected  to  get 
better,  and  thought  that  the  approach  of  summer  would  re- 
store his  strength.  The  desire  to  live  was  strong  in  him. 
None  the  less,  he  recognised  that  his  cycle  of  life  was 
finished,  and  although  he  had  no  weariness  of  life,  he  felt  a 
kind  of  satisfaction  that  life  was  over.  "  When,  like  me,  a 
man  has  lived  eighty  years,"  he  said,  "he  has  hardly  the 
right  to  live,  but  ought  to  be  ready  every  day  to  die,  and  to 
think  of  putting  his  house  in  order"  (Eckermann,  May 
i5>  1831).  None  the  less,  he  continued  his  work,  in  par- 
ticular revising  the  last  two  chapters  of  the  second  part  of 
Faust.  When  he  had  finished  them,  Goethe  was  extremely 
pleased.  "I  can  consider,"  he  said,  "any  days  which 
come  to  me  yet  as  a  real  gift,  as  it  is  a  matter  of  no  moment 
if  I  write  anything  more  or  what  such  work  should  be  " 
(Eckermann,  June  i,  1831). 

Goethe  gave  Faust  one  hundred  years  of  life,  and  it  is 
probable  that  he  thought  of  that  period  as  his  own  span. 
Although  he  did  not  reach  it,  he  approached  it,  after 
having  lived  a  most  active  life,  full  of  most  valuable  lessons 
for  posterity. 



Faust  the  biography  of  Goethe — The  three  monologues 
in  the  first  Part — Faust's  pessimism — The  brain-fatigue 
which  finds  a  remedy  in  love — The  romance  with  Mar- 
guerite and  its  unhappy  ending 

"  GOETHE  was  Faust,  Faust  Goethe,"  said  the  biographer 
of  the  great  poet  (Bielschowsky,  vol.  ii,  p.  645).  Most 
people  admit  that  in  Faust  Goethe  gave  his  auto- 
biography on  a  more  detailed  scale  than  in  Werther. 
Why  then  should  I  follow  my  analysis  of  Goethe  himself, 
which  was  based  on  exact  facts,  with  an  analysis  of  Faust  ? 
I  do  so  because  in  addition  to  the  biographical  details  in 
Faust,  there  are  many  ideas  which  illuminate  the  poet's 
conception  of  life.  Goethe's  life  explains  Faust,  and 
Faust  explains  the  soul  of  its  author.  And  I  am  con- 
vinced that  an  accurate  study  of  so  great  a  man  is  of  high 
importance  in  the  investigation  of  human  nature. 

The  two  Parts  of  Faust  correspond  with  two  distinct 
periods  in  Goethe's  life.  In  the  first  Part,  Faust  was  pes- 
simistic, in  the  second  optimistic.  Although  many  of  the 
high  problems  that  occupy  humanity  are  raised  and  dis- 
cussed in  Faust,  love  is  the  centre  on  which  the  drama 

In  the  first  Part,  conceived  and  for  the  most  part  written 


during  his  youth,  the  chief  theme  is  the  love  of  a  young 
man  for  a  pretty  and  attractive  girl  towards  whom  the  hero 
acts  in  a  fashion  opposed  to  conventional  morality.  As  in 
most  of  his  principal  works,  Goethe  has  made  an  episode  in 
his  own  life  the  basis  of  Faust.  It  is  the  well-known 
story  of  Frederique,  the  daughter  of  a  clergyman,  for  whom 
the  brilliant  young  author  conceived  a  violent  passion  and 
who  returned  his  affection  with  a  deeper  and  more  enduring 
feeling.  Goethe  was  alarmed  at  the  possibility  of  definitely 
settling  his  future,  and  deserted  the  poor  victim  of  love  in 
an  unfortunate  state.  Later  on,  he  confessed  to  the  Baroness 
von  Stein  that  he  had  abandoned  Frederique  at  a  time 
when  his  desertion  was  likely  to  cause  the  death  of  the  poor 
girl.  "  I  had  wounded  to  the  quick,"  he  wrote (Bielschow- 
sky,  vol.  i,  p.  135),  "the  best  heart  in  the  world,  and  I 
had  to  repent  of  it  long  and  almost  unendurably."  As  an 
atonement,  he  made  Frederique  the  heroine  of  "  Goetz  " 
and  of  "  Clavigo,"  but  not  thinking  these  worthy  of  her, 
he  immortalised  her  as  the  Marguerite  of  Faust. 

A  learned  doctor,  skilled  in  all  human  knowledge,  but 
who  had  found  no  satisfaction  in  his  studies,  found  consola- 
tion in  the  beauty  and  charm  of  a  young  girl  with  whom 
he  fell  passionately  in  love.  It  will  be  interesting  to  trace 
the  psychological  process  which  induced  him  to  leave  the 
scene  of  his  scientific  studies  tor  the  streets  and  resorts 
where  he  found  Marguerite. 

Although  Faust  was  represented  as  an  old  man,  who  had 
had  time  enough  to  absorb  all  human  learning,  his  image 
bears  the  stamp  of  green  youth.  "  Discontented  with  all 
his  knowledge,  he  wished  to  know  the  secret  entrails  of  the 
world,  to  be  a  witness  of  the  centre  of  all  activity,  to  unveil 
the  principle  of  life."  l  These  are  the  demands  of  a  young 

1  The  word  Samen  of  the  original  is  the  expression  of  the  alchemists 
for  the  "  principle  of  life." 


man  seeking  to  resolve  the  most  intricate  problems  at  one 
stroke.  The  speech  in  question  dates  from  the  period  of 
Werther,  when  Goethe  was  twenty-five  years  old,  and 
for  that  reason  leaves  no-  very  serious  impression.1  The 
second  monologue,  which  ends  with  the  attempt  to  take 
poison,  is  later,  and  is  absent  in  the  edition  of  1790  (Frag- 
ment). It  was  revised  when  Goethe  had  reached  his 
fiftieth  year,  and  displays  a  riper  maturity.  Although 
lacking  exactness,  it  depicts  in  an  interesting  fashion  the 
miseries  of  life. 

Some  alien  substance  more  and  more  is  cleaving 

To  all  the  mind  conceives  of  grand  and  fair ; 

When  this  world's  Good  is  won  by  our  achieving, 

The  Better,   then,   is  named  a  cheat  and  snare. 

The  fine  emotions,  whence  our  lives  we  mould, 

Lie  in   the  earthly  tumult  dumb  and  cold. 

If  hopeful  Fancy  once,  in  daring  flight, 

Her  longings  to  the  Infinite  expanded, 

Yet   now  a  narrow  space  contents  her  quite, 

Since  Time's  wild  wave  so  many  a  fortune  stranded. 

Care  at  the  bottom  of  the  heart  is  lurking; 

Her  secret  pangs  in  silence  working, 

She,  restless,  rocks  herself,  disturbing  joy  and  rest; 

In  newer  masks  her  face  is  ever  drest, 

By  turns  as  house  and  land,  as  wife  and  child,  presented, — 

As  water,  fire,  as  poison,  steel ; 

We  dread  the  blows  we  never  feel, 

And  what  we  never  lose  is  yet  by  us  lamented. 

Fear  of  the  evils  which  lie  in  wait  for  us  and  against 
which  we  can  make  no  provision  render  life  insupportable. 
Faust's  frame  of  mind  as  described  in  these  lines  recalls 
Schopenhauer,  who  was  always  afraid  of  something ;  fear, 
sometimes  of  thieves,  sometimes  of  diseases,  tormented 

1  Erich  Schmidt,  Goethe's  Faust  in  urspritnglicher  Gestalt,  6th  edit., 
Weimar,  1905,  p.  i. 

2  Faust,    Bayard    Taylor's    translation.       London  :    Warne    &    Co., 
pp.  20-21. 


him.     He  would  never  go  to  a  barber's  to  be  shaved,  and 
always  carried  his  own  drinking  cup  with  him. 

"Is  it  not  better  to  end  such  a  life,  and  to  kill  oneself, 
even  if  it  mean  annihilation?"  asked  Faust.  He  took  up 
the  poisoned  goblet  and  put  it  to  his  lips,  but,  arrested  by 
singing  and  the  sound  of  bells  outside,  he  refrained,  and 
life  laid  hold  of  him.  Not  religious  faith,  however,  but 
memories  of  childhood,  "the  happy  sports  of  youth  and 
the  gay  festivals  of  spring  "  were  the  agencies  that  recalled 
Faust  to  the  earth.  He  went  out  of  doors,  mingled  with 
the  crowd,  tried  to  amuse  himself  amongst  men,  and 
savoured  the  beauty  of  the  new-born  spring,  but  all  these 
could  not  make  him  forget  the  evil  of  life.  He  met  his 
pupil,  talked  with  him,  and  again  displayed  his  pessimism. 

O  happy  he,  who  still  renews 
The  hope,  from  Error's  deeps  to  rise  for  ever ! 
That  which  one  does  not  know,  one  needs  to  use; 
And  what  one  knows,  one  uses  never.1 

Then  follows  the  celebrated  monologue  of  Faust  over 
which  so  many  commentators  have  lost  their  heads  and 
wasted  oceans  of  ink. 

Two  souls,  alas !   reside  within  my  breast, 
And  each  withdraws  from,  and  repels,  its  brother. 
One  with  tenacious  organs  holds  in  love 
And  clinging  lust  the  world  in  its  embraces; 
The  other  strongly  sweeps,  this  dust  above, 
Into  the  high  ancestral  spaces.2 

On  this  passage  has  been  built  up  a  whole  theory  of 
"double  natures"  with  which  has  been  incorporated  the 
dualism  of  Manicheism,  the  two  natures  of  Christ  and  what 
not  besides.3 

1  Op  «'/.,  p.  32. 

2  Op.  at.,  pp.  33,  34. 

3  Details  of  this   will   be  found   in    Kuno   Fischer's  Goethe's  Faust, 
PP.  328-330. 


There  exists  in  literature  no  better  expression  of  human 
disharmony  than  this  monologue  "  of  the  two  souls."  It 
portrays  the  unbalanced  condition  so  frequent  in  youth  and 
is  a  valuable  indication  of  the  real  youth  of  Faust. 

On  his  return  to  his  study,  Faust  again  revealed  his 

But  ah !     I   feel,  though  will  thereto  be  stronger, 

Contentment  flows  from  out  my  breast  no  longer. 

Why  must  the  stream  so  soon  run  dry  and  fail  us, 

And  burning  thirst  again  assail  us? 

Therein  I  Ve  borne  so  much  probation  !  1 

It  is  at  this  point  that  Faust  addresses  the  Spirit  "  that 
denies  "  and  that  is  called  "  sin  "  and  "  evil."  This  spirit 
invokes  before  his  eyes  "the  fairest  images  of  dreams," 
that  is  to  say,  a  woman's  body  in  its  beautiful  nudity.  Faust 
declares  himself 

Too  old  to  play  with  passion, 
Too  young  to  be  without  desire.2 

Pursued  by  desire 

....  when  night  descends,  how  anxiously 
Upon  my  couch  of  sleep  I  lay  me. 
There,  also,   comes  no  rest  to  me; 
But  some  wild  dream  is  sent  to  fray  me.3 

So  that 

Death  is  desired,  and  Life  a  thing  unblest. 
O  fortunate,  for  whom,  when  victory  glances, 
The  bloody  laurels  on  the  brow  he  bindeth ! 
Whom,  after  rapid,  maddening  dances, 
In  clasping  maiden-arms  he  findeth !  4 

Faust  thus  reached  the  ecstasy  of  passion.  Soon  after- 
wards in  the  Witches'  kitchen,  he  saw  in  a  mirror  a 
"  heavenly  form  "  and  cried  :  — 

O  lend  me,   Love,  the  swiftest  of  thy  pinions, 
And  bear  me  to  her  beauteous  field. 

1  Op.  tit.,  p.  36.  2  Op.  tit.,  p.  45 

3  Op.  tit.,  p.  46.  *  Oi>.  tit.,  p.  46. 


A  woman's   form,  in   beauty   shining! 
Can  woman,  then,  so  lovely  be? 
And  must  I  find  her  body,  there  reclining; 
Of  all  the   heavens,  the   bright   epitome? 
Can  Earth  with  such  a  thing  be  mated?  l 

Discontent  with  life,  sense  of  the  insufficiency  of  human 
knowledge  and  the  most  gloomy  pessimism  lead  to  the 
passion  of  love  which,  eventually,  after  many  devious  paths, 
throws  Faust  into  the  arms  of  Marguerite.  The  story  is  one 
of  the  world's  great  romances  and  everyone  knows  it. 
Faust  all  unconsciously  was  following  the  prescription  of 
Brown-Sequard.  Brain-fatigue  had  made  the  continuation 
of  the  study  which  caused  it  impossible.  The  condition  is 
plainly  stated  in  the  following  lines  :  — 

The  thread  of  Thought  at  last  is  broken, 
And  knowledge  brings  disgust  unspoken. 
Let  us  the  sensual  deeps  explore.2 

The  brain  has  refused  to  work,  and  blind  instinct,  in  the 
guise  of  dreams,  whispers  that  there  is  in  the  organism 
something  that  can  restore  the  intellectual  forces.  This 
something,  however,  is  what  is  called  sin,  and  much 
courage  is  needed  to  plunge  into  it.  Without  this  evil, 
life  cannot  last.  Faust  has  to  choose  between  love  and 
death,  and  chooses  love. 

The  end  of  the  romance  of  Goethe  and  Frederique  was 
bad,  and  that  of  Faust  and  Marguerite  was  still  worse.  The 
poet  painted  it  in  the  most  sombre  colours.  Marguerite 
killed  her  child,  poisoned  her  mother,  became  crazy,  and 
was  beheaded.  Faust's  cup  of  misery  was  filled  to  the 
brim  ;  he  blamed  his  evil  genius,  he  made  desperate  efforts 
to  save  the  poor  woman,  and  cried  "O  that  I  had  never 
been  born." 

To  sum  up :  in  the  first  Part,  Faust  is  a  young,  learned 
man  who  expects  too  much  from  science  and  life,  and  whose 
1  Op.  at.,  p.  71.  2  Op.  cit.,  p.  51. 


genius  requires  extra-conjugal  love  as  a  stimulant;  he  is 
unbalanced  and  inevitably  pessimistic.  It  is  not  surprising 
that  his  life  goes  badly,  and  that  his  conduct  leaves  him 
much  to  repent  of.  But  although,  at  first,  a  vague  general 
discontent  nearly  drives  him  to  suicide,  later  on  the  terrible 
evil  which  he  had  wrought  on  a  poor  creature  he  loved  pas- 
sionately did  no  more  than  plunge  him  into  misery  that 
was  bitter  but  far  from  mortal.  His  mind  had  developed 
far  in  the  direction  of  optimism.  The  crisis  through  which 
he  passed,  serious  as  it  was,  ended  by  his  return  to  a  life  of 
great  activity  and  enterprise. 


The  second  Part  of  Faust  is  in  the  main  a  description  of 
senile  love — Amorous  passion  of  the  old  man — Humble  atti- 
tude of  the  old  Faust — Platonic  love  for  Helena — The  old 
Faust's  conception  of  life — His  optimism — The  general  idea 
of  the  play 

THE  first  Part  of  Faust  was  acclaimed  by  the  world  almost 
as  soon  as  it  appeared,  but  the  second  Part  met  a  very 
cold  reception.  Everyone  knows  and  reads  the  first  Part; 
the  second  Part  has  few  readers,  and  these  chiefly  poets  and 
dramatists.  No  doubt  it  has  more  effect  on  the  stage  than 
when  it  is  read,  but  this  is  due  to  subsidiary  features  in 
which  it  resembles  a  fine  ballet.  There  is  general  agree- 
ment that  the  real  meaning  of  the  second  Part  is  obscure, 
complex  and  difficult  to  interpret.  Many  literary  critics 
have  racked  their  brains  in  the  effort  to  discover  the 
author's  central  idea.  When  Eckermann,  who  per- 
suaded Goethe  to  revise  and  finish  the  second  Part, 
asked  what  was  the  meaning  of  some  of  the  scenes  in 
it,  Goethe  evaded  the  question  and  played  the  sphinx. 
Thus,  with  regard  to  the  famous  "  mothers "  Goethe 
answered,  with  a  mysterious  air: — "You  have  the  manu- 
script ;  study  it,  and  see  what  you  can  make  of  it  "  (January 
10,  1830).  G.  H.  Lewes,  although  one  of  Goethe's  most 
resolute  admirers,  admitted  the  impossibility  of  grasping 


the  sense  of  the  second  Part.  The  Wanderjahre  and  the 
second  Part  of  Faust  were  arsenals  of  symbols,  and  it 
pleased  the  old  poet  to  see  acute  critics  labouring  to  inter- 
pret them  whilst  he  was  silent  and  refused  to  help  them. 
Lewes  thought  that  Goethe,  so  far  from  showing  the 
smallest  wish  to  clear  up  their  difficulties,  took  a  pleasure  in 
giving  them  new  problems  to  puzzle  over.  Lewes  himself 
thought  that  the  second  Part  was  poor  in  idea  and  execu- 
tion, and  admitted  that  he  had  failed  after  repeatedly  trying 
to  get  a  conception  of  it  that  would  reveal  its  beauties.  In 
writing  about  it,  he  contented  himself  with  giving  a  sum- 
mary of  it.  Now  this  second  Part,  although  its  general  lines 
had  been  laid  down  for  long,  was  actually  written  during 
several  years  in  the  last  period  of  the  poet's  life.  The  fact 
that  it  was  composed  out  of  the  regular  sequence  of  the 
Acts  and  Scenes  gives  us  an  important  clue.  The  third  Act 
and  then  the  second  Part  of  the  fifth  Act  were  put  OR  paper 
first.  Next  followed  the  first  Act  and  part  of  the  second; 
the  classical  Walpurgis  night  was  written  in  1830,  the 
fourth  Act  in  1831,  and  last  of  all  the  beginning  of  the  fifth 

As  the  second  Part  of  Faust  is  a  crowded  motley,  con- 
taining many  subjects,  obviously  of  minor  importance, 
such  as  the  volcanic  theory  of  the  earth  and  the  disquisition 
on  paper-money,  the  key-note  may  be  found  in  the  portions 
which  were  first  composed.  Now  Act  III.  contains  the 
story  of  Helena,  and  the  second  part  of  Act  V.  Faust's 
activity  for  the  general  welfare. 

Setting  out  from  the  conception  that  the  works  of  Goethe 
reflect  the  acts  and  incidents  of  his  own  life,  I  shall  try  to' 
explain  on  that  basis  the  meaning  of  the  most  obscure  of 
his  writings. 

I  have  already  stated    that    love  was    the    stimulus    of 

u  2 


Goethe's  activity  in  youth  and  age ;  it  is  the  scarlet  thread 
running  through  his  history.  There  was  no  difficulty  in 
his  using  his  love  for  Frederique  as  material  for  a  play  ;  that 
a  young  man  should  love  a  young  girl  was  natural  enough. 
The  story  of  an  old  man  enamoured  of  a  young  beauty  was 
quite  another  matter.  It  was  said  that  one  of  the  reasons 
that  prevented  his  marriage  with  Ulrique  de  Lewetzow  was 
the  fear  of  ridicule  (Lewes,  op.  cit.,  ii,  p.  345),  a  fear  that 
plays  a  large  part  in  human  affairs.  It  is  easy  to  under- 
stand that  the  old  poet  was  in  a  difficulty  when  he  came  to 
write  of  senile  love.  Faust's  love  for  Helena  was  not  that 
of  a  supposed  old  man  who  became  young  by  doffing  his 
beard  and  changing  his  cloak,  but  of  a  real  old  man  whom 
no  mystery  nor  magic  was  to  make  young  again.  And  yet 
old  Faust's  love  was  a  true  passion,  and  Goethe  has  written 
no  finer  lines  than  those  describing  it. 

When  the  second  Part  begins,  Faust  has  passed  through 
the  terrible  crisis  of  the  first  Part.  Wearied  and  restless, 
he  seeks  a  new  mode  of  life. 

Life's  pulses  now  with  fresher  force  awaken 
To  greet  the  mild  ethereal  twilight  o'er  me; 
This  night,  thou,  Earth !  hast  also  stood  unshaken, 
And  now  thou  breathest,  new-refreshed  before  me, 
And  now  beginnest,  all  thy  gladness  granting, 
A  vigorous  resolution  to  restore  me, 
To  seek  that  higher  life  for  which  I'm  panting.1 

The  invoked  image  of  the  most  beautiful  woman  in  the 
history  of  the  world  transforms  Faust's  desire  of  love  into 
an  overwhelming  passion. 

Have  I  still  eyes?    Deep  in  my  being  springs 
The  fount  of  Beauty,  in  a  torrent  pouring ! 
A  heavenly  gain  my  path  of  terror  brings. 
The  world  was  void,  and  shut  to  my  exploring, — 

1  Op.  cit.,  p.  151. 


And,  since   my  priesthood,  how  hath  it  been  graced  1 

Enduring  'tis,  desirable,  firm-based. 

And  let  my  breath  of  being  blow  to  waste, 

If  I  for  thee  unlearn  my  sacred  duty ! 

The  form,  that  long  erewhile  my  fancy  captured, 

That  from  the  magic  mirror  so  enraptured, 

Was  but  a  frothy  phantom  of  such  beauty ! 

'Tis  Thou,  to  whom  the  stir  of  all  my  forces, 

The  essence  of  my  passion's  courses, — 

Love,  fancy,  worship,  madness, — here  I  render.1 

In  the  throes  of  this  passion,  Faust  is  tortured  by  jealousy 
when  he  sees  the  lovely  woman  clinging  to  and  kissing  a 
young  man.  He  desires  her  at  all  costs. 

Am  I  nothing  here?    To  stead  me, 
Is  not  this  key  still  shining  in  my  hand? 
Through  realms  of  terror,  wastes  and  waves  it  led  me, 
Through   solitudes,  to  where   I   firmly  stand, 
Here  foothold  is  !     Realities  here  centre ! 
The  strife  with  spirits  here  the  mind  may  venture, 
And  on  its  grand,  its  double  lordship  enter! 
How  far  she  was,  and  nearer,  how  divine  1 
I'll  rescue  her  and  make  her  doubly  mine. 
Ye  Mothers  !     Mothers  !     Crown  this  wild  endeavour  I 
Who  knows  her  once  must  hold  her,  and  for  ever.2 

The  disappearance  of  the  beautiful  woman  so  moved 
Faust  that  he  fainted  and  fell  into  a  prolonged  sleep.  As 
soon  as  he  recovered  consciousness  he  asked  :  "  Where  is 
she?  "  and  set  out  to  seek  for  her.  When  he  learned  that 
Chiron  had  already  carried  off  Helena  on  his  back  Faust 
cried  out :  — 

Her  didst  thou  bear? 
Chiron:  This  back  she  pressed. 
Faust:  Was  I  not  wild  enough,  before; 

And  now  such   seat,  to  make   me  blest  1 

O,  I  scarcely  dare  l%. 

To  trust  my  senses! — tell  me  more! 

She  is  my  only  aspiration ! 

Whence  didst  thou  bear  her — to  what  shore  ?  2 

1  Op.  at.,  p.  203.  2  Op.  cit.   p.  205.  3  Op.  tit.,  p.  230. 


Thou  saw'st  her  once;  to-day  I  saw  her  beam, 
The  dream  of  Beauty,  beautiful  as  Dream ! 
My  soul,  my  being,  now  is  bound  and  chained; 
I  cannot  live,  unless  she  be  attained.1 

Chiron  found  this  attitude  of  passionate  emotion  so  strange 
that  he  advised  Faust  to  take  care  of  his  health. 

After  many  wanderings  and  difficulties  Faust  again  met 
the  woman  he  coveted  and  spoke  to  her  as  follows  :  — 

What  else  remains,   but  that  I   give  to  thee 
Myself,  and  all  I  vainly  fancied  mine? 
Let  me,  before  thy  feet,  in  fealty  true, 
Thee  now  acknowledge,  Lady,  whose  approach 
Won  thee  at  once  possession  and  the  throne !  2 

This  language,  so  very  different  from  what  the  same  man 
had  formerly  addressed  to  Marguerite,  is  much  more  like 
that  of  an  old  lover  to  a  young  beauty  whom  he  admires. 
When  Helena  invited  Faust  to  sit  on  the  throne  beside  her, 
he  replied  :  — 

First,  kneeling,  let  the  dedication  be 
Accepted,  lofty  Lady !     Let  me  kiss 
The  gracious  hand  that  lifts  me  to  thy  side. 
Confirm  me  as  co-regent  of  thy  realm, 
Whose  borders  are  unknown,  and  win  for  thee 
Guard,  slave  and  worshipper,  and  all  in  one !  3 

The  old  man  in  the  throes  of  a  passion  so  great  that  he 
was  wholly  absorbed  by  it  did  not  dare  to  address  the 
beloved  woman  except  in  the  most  humble  terms. 

Helena  made  no  declaration  of  love,  but  was  complacent 
to  him,  and  when  Faust  suggested  :  "  Now  let  our  throne 
become  a  bower  unblighted,"  Helena  agreed  to  follow  him 
to  a  secluded  and  green  bower.  There  they  remained  alone 
for  some  time,  cared  for  by  an  old  servant. 

The  result  of  this  union  was  not  a  child  like  that  to  which 
Marguerite  gave  birth  and  afterwards  killed.  It  was  a 

1  Op-  tit.,  p.  231.  2  Op.  tit.,  p.  284.  3  Op.  at.,  p.  287. 


strange  and  peculiar  being ;  a  boy  who  immediately  after 
his  birth  began  to  leap  about  and  to  alarm  his  parents  by 
the  activity  of  his  movements. 

Although  Goethe  preserved  an  obstinate  silence  when  he 
was  asked  to  explain  many  of  the  scenes  in  the  second  Part, 
he  had  no  hesitation  in  explaining  the  significance  of  this 
astonishing  child.  "  The  child  was  not  a  human  being  but 
an  allegory,  in  which  was  personified  poetry,  which  is  not 
bound  to  any  time,  to  any  place,  or  to  any  person  "  (Ecker- 
mann,  December  20,  1829).  Struck  by  the  tragic  fate  of 
Byron,  Goethe  made  the  son  of  Faust  and  Helena  a  symbol 
of  the  English  poet. 

Literary  critics,  setting  out  from  the  categorical  explana- 
tion of  Goethe  himself,  have  declared  that  the  union  of 
Faust  and  Helena  was  meant  to  denote  the  alliance  of 
romanticism  and  classicism,  a  marriage  from  which  was 
born  modern  poetry,  personified  in  its  highest  representa- 
tive, Byron.  This,  however,  cannot  be  the  idea  of  Goethe, 
who  himself  was  far  from  an  enthusiast  about  classicism 
and  romanticism.  "What,"  he  said,  "is  all  this  noise 
about  the  classic  and  the  romantic  ?  The  essential  thing  is 
that'a  piece  of  work  should  be  wholly  good  and  serious; 
then  it  will  also  be  classic  "  (Eckermann,  October  17,  1828). 
It  is  much  more  probable  that  Goethe  intended  poetry  to 
spring  from  the  relations  between  the  old  Faust  and  his 
adorable  companion,  relations  of  a  kind  to  be  included  in 
so-called  platonic  love.  Such  love  inspires  the  creation  of 
perfect  work  even  in  an  old  poet,  when  he  is  stimulated  by 
a  beautiful  woman. 

When  Faust  and  Helena  emerged  from  the  grotto  with 
their  son,  Helena  said  :  — 

Helena:  Love,  in  human  wise  to  bless  us, 
In  a  noble  pair  must  be; 


But  divinely  to  possess  us, 

It  must  form  a  precious  Three. 

Faust :  All  we  seek  has  therefore  found  us ; 
I  am  thine  and  thou  art  mine ! 
So  we  stand  as  love  hath  bound  us; 
Other  fortune  we  resign.1 

After  the  death  of  her  son,  Helena  abandoned  Faust, 
leaving  him  her  garments  : — 

Helena :  Also  in  me,  alas  I  an  old  word  proves  its  truth, 
That  Bliss  and  Beauty  ne'er  enduringly  unite. 
Torn  is  the  link  of  Life,  no  less  than  that  of  Love; 
So,  both  lamenting,  painfully  I  say  :  Farewell ! 
And  cast  myself  again, — once  only, — in  thine  arms.1 

After  this  crisis  the  old  Faust  sought  to  console  himself 
in  the  bosom  of  nature,  just  as  after  the  terrible  catastrophe 
with  Marguerite  the  contemplation  of  nature  had  given  him 
the  strength  to  live.  On  this  occasion  he  reached  the  sum- 
mit of  a  high  mountain  from  which  he  watched  the  chang- 
ing vapours  of  a  cloud  which  seemed  to  him  to  assume  the 
form  of  female  beauty.  But  Faust  was  old,  and  now  saw 
only  memories  of  love.  He  cried  out : — 

Yes  !  mine  eyes  not  err ! — 
On  sun-illumined  pillows  beauteously  reclined, 
Colossal,   truly,   but  a  godlike   woman-form, 
I  see!     The  like  of  Juno,   Leda,   Helena, 
Majestically  lovely,   floats  before  my  sight  I 
Ah  1   now   'tis  broken  1     Towering  broad  and  formlessly, 
It  rests  along  the  east  like  distant  icy  hills, 
And  shapes  the  grand  significance  of  fleeting  days. 
Yet  still  the«-e  clings  a  light  and  delicate  band  of  mist 
Around  my  breast  and  brow,  caressing,  cheering  me. 
Now  light,  delaying,   it  soars  and  higher  soars, 
And  folds  together. — Cheats  me  an  ecstatic  form, 
As  early-youthful,  long-foregone  and  highest  bliss? 
The  first  glad  treasures  of  my  deepest  heart  break  forth ; 
Aurora's  love,  so  light  of  pinion,  is  its  type, 
The  swiftly-felt,  the  first,  scarce-comprehended  glance, 
Outshining  every  treasure,  when  retained  and  held. 

1  Op.  cit.,  p  298.  Op.  tit.,  p.  305. 


Like  Spiritual  Beauty  mounts  the  gracious  Form, 
Dissolving  not,  but  lifts  itself  through  ether  far, 
And  from  my  inner  being  bears  the  best  away.1 

This  state  of  mind  resembles  Goethe's  condition  after  the 
rupture  with  Ulrique. 

Love  and  poetry  alike  were  over  for  him.  None  the  less 
his  craving  for  the  higher  life  was  not  yet  weakened.  The 
desire  to  live  was  still  very  strong  in  the  old  Faust.  But 
now  he  no  longer  as  in  the  days  of  his  youth  dreamed  of 
an  ideal  which  could  not  be  attained.  When  Mephisto- 
pheles  asked  him  ironically  :  — 

Then  might  one  guess  whereunto  thou  hast  striven? 

Boldly-sublime  it  was,  I'm  sure. 

Since  nearer  to  the  moon  thy  flight  was  driven, 

Would  now  thy  mania  that  realm  secure? 
Faust :  Not  so  !     This  sphere  of  earthly  soil 

Still  gives  us  room  for  lofty  doing. 

Astounding  plans  e'en  now  are  brewing : 

I  feel  new  strength  for  bolder  toil.2 

Such  optimistic  language,  extraordinarily  different  from 
Faust's  lamentations  in  the  first  Part,  becomes  still  more 
marked.  When  he  was  approaching  his  centenary  he 
made  the  following  profession  of  faith  : — 

I  only  through  the  world  have  flown  : 
Each  appetite  I  seized  as  by  the  hair; 
What  not  sufficed  me,  forth  I  let  it  fare, 
And  what  escaped  me,   I   let  go. 
I've   only  craved,  accomplished  my  delight, 
Then  wished  a  second  time,  and  thus  with  might 
Stormed  through  my  life  :  at  first  'twas  grand,  completely, 
But  now  it  moves  most  wisely  and  discreetly. 
The  sphere  of  Earth  is  known  enough  to  me ; 
The  view  beyond  is  barred  immutably  : 
A   fool,  who  there  his  blinking  eyes  directeth, 
And  o'er  his  clouds  of  peers  a  place  expecteth  1 
Firm  let  him  stand,  and  look  around  him  well! 
This  World  means  something  to  the  Capable. 
Why  needs  he  through  Eternity  to  wend? 
He  here  acquires  what  he  can  apprehend.3 
1  Op.  at.,  p.  309.  2  Op.  at.,  p.  313.  3  Opm  dt^  p<  35Ia 


When  he  had  reached  the  maturity  of  his  wisdom, 
Faust  organised  drainage  works,  the  object  of  which  was 
to  increase  the  area  of  land  that  could  be  utilised  :  — 

To  many  millions  let  me  furnish  soil, 

Though  not  secure,  yet  free  to  active  toil; 

Green,   fertile   fields. 

A  land  like  Paradise  here,  round  about. 

Yes !  to  this  thought  I  hold  with  firm  persistence ; 

The  last  result  of  wisdom  stamps  it  true  : 

He  only  earns  his  freedom  and  existence, 

Who  daily  conquers  them  anew. 

Thus  here,  by  dangers  girt,  shall  glide  away 

Of  childhood,  manhood,   age,   the  vigorous  day  : 

And  such  a  throng  I  fain  would  see, 

Stand  on  free  soil  among  a  people  free ! 

Then  dared  I  hail  the  Moment  fleeing  : 

"  Ah,  still  delay — thou  art  so  fair!  " 

The  traces  cannot,  of  mine  earthly  being, 

In  asons  perish, — they  are  there  ! — 

In  proud  fore-feeling  of  such  lofty  bliss, 

I  now  enjoy  the  highest  Moment, — this !  l 

These  were  the  last  words  of  the  wise  centenarian.  It 
has  been  said  that  they  contain  the  quintessence  of 
Goethe's  moral  philosophy,  and  that  they  preach  the  sacri- 
fice of  the  individual  for  the  benefit  of  society.  Lewes,  for 
instance,  takes  this  view,  holding  that  Faust  was  the  ex- 
position of  a  man  who  had  conquered  the  vanity  of  in- 
dividual aspirations  and  joys,  and  had  come  to  the  know- 
ledge of  the  great  truth  that  man  must  live  for  man,  and 
can  find  lasting  happiness  only  in  work  for  the  benefit  of 
humanity.  For  my  own  part,  it  seems  to  me  that  according 
to  Goethe's  Faust  man  must  dedicate  a  large  part  of  his 
life  to  the  complete  development  of  his  own  individuality, 
and  that  it  is  only  in  the  second  half  of  his  life,  when  he 
has  grown  wise  by  experience  and  feels  satisfied  as  an 
individual,  that  he  should  use  his  activity  for  the  good  of 

1  op.  tit.,  PP.  354-355- 


mankind.  It  was  no  part  either  of  the  ideas  of  Goethe  or 
of  the  nature  of  his  work  to  preach  the  sacrifice  of  in- 

Goethe  was  thus  absorbed  in  Faust  by  the  problem 
of  the  conflict  between  certain  actions  and  guiding  prin- 
ciples. The  misdeeds  of  the  hero  in  the  first  Part  of  his 
life  had  to  be  redeemed.  He  said  to  Eckermann  that  "  the 
key  to  the  salvation  of  Faust  was  to  be  found  in  the  Angels' 
Chorus  "  : — 

The  noble  spirit  now  is  free, 

And  saved  from  evil  scheming  : 

Whoe'er  aspires  unweariedly 

Is  not  beyond  redeeming.1 

However,  that  of  which  he  did  not  speak,  and  which 
none  the  less  was  most  important  in  Faust  and  in  Goethe 
himself,  is  the  action  of  love  as  a  stimulant  to  artistic 
creation,  and  it  was  probably  to  this  that  he  referred  at  the 
end  of  his  tragedy.  The  mystical  chorus  sent  up  prayers 
in  a  religious  and  erotic  ecstasy,  and  their  mysterious  song 

is: — 

The  Indescribable,  ' 

Here  it  is  done; 

The  Woman-Soul  leadeth  us 

Upward  and  on  !  2 

Although  these  verses  have  been  interpreted  as  love 
which  sacrifices  or  even  love  which  leads  to  the  grace  of 
God  (Bode,  p.  149),  it  is  much  more  probable  that  it  is 
love  for  feminine  beauty,  a  love  which  makes  possible  the 
execution  of  wonderful  things.  Such  an  interpretation 
agrees  with  the  fact  that  the  verses  are  spoken  by  a  mystic 
choir  which  speaks  of  the  indescribable  (das  Unbeschreib- 
liche)  in  which  we  must  see  the  amorous  passion  of  the 
old  man.  In  such  an  interpretation  the  whole  of  Faust 
(and  especially  the  second  Part)  is  an  eloquent  pleading 
1  Op.  at.,  p.  365.  2  Op.  tit.,  p.  370- 


for  the  importance  of  love  in  the  higher  activity  of  man, 
in  accordance  with  the  law  of  human  nature,  which  is  a 
much  better  justification  of  Goethe's  conduct  than  all  the 
arguments  of  his  interpreters  and  admirers. 

I  do  not  agree  with  the  common  idea  that  the  two  Parts 
of  Faust  are  two  distinct  works,  but  regard  them  as  com- 
plementary. In  the  first  Part  we  see  the  young  pessi- 
mist, full  of  ardour  and  of  desires,  ready  to  make  an  end 
of  his  days  and  stopping  at  nothing  to  satisfy  his  thirst 
for  love.  In  the  second  Part  we  have  a  mature  old  man 
still  loving  women,  but  in  a  different  way,  a  man  who  is 
wise  and  optimistic,  and  who,  having  satiated  the  wants 
of  his  individual  life,  dedicates  the  rest  of  his  days  to  man- 
kind, and  who,  having  reached  a  century,  dies  extremely 
happy,  in  fact  almost  exhibiting  the  instinct  of  natural 




Difficulty  of  the  problem  of  morality — Vivisection  and  anti- 
vivisection — Enquiry  into  the  possibility  of  rational  morality 
— Utilitarian  and  intuitive  theories  of  morality — Insufficiency 
of  these 

IN  the  course  of  this  book  I  have  from  time  to  time  ap- 
proached subjects  closely  related  with  the  problem  of 
morality.  For  instance,  in  considering  the  prolongation 
of  human  life,  it  was  necessary  to  show  that  extension  of 
longevity  far  beyond  the  reproductive  period  of  man  in 
no  way  is  opposed  to  the  principles  of  the  highest  morality, 
although  there  exist  races  who  find  the  sacrifice  of  old 
people  in  harmony  with  their  conception  of  morality. 

Experimental  biology,  which  lies  at  the  root  of  most  of 
the  doctrines  exposed  in  this  work,  depends  on  vivisection 
of  animals.  There  are,  however,  very  many  persons  who 
regard  it  as  immoral  to  operate  on  living  animals  when  it 
is  not  for  the  direct  benefit  of  these.  The  attempts  which 
have  been  made  in  France  and  Germany  to  prevent  or  to 
limit  vivisection  in  laboratories  have  not  succeeded,  but 
in  England  there  is  a  severe  law  controlling  operations  on^ 
animals  and  submitting  them  to  oppressive  regulations  to 
which  many  of  the  scientific  men  in  the  country  are  opposed. 

The  question  of  experiments  upon  human  beings  is  still 


more  delicate.  Just  as  formerly  the  examination  of  a 
human  corpse  could  be  made  only  in  secret,  so  at  the  pre- 
sent time,  if  the  slightest  experiment  is  to  be  made  upon  a 
human  being,  it  can  be  only  by  devious  ways.  People  who 
are  hardly  shocked  at  all  at  the  numberless  accidents  caused 
by  automobiles  and  other  means  of  transit,  or  in  field 
sports,  make  the  strongest  protest  against  any  proposal 
to  try  some  new  method  of  treatment  upon  a  human 

A  large  number  of  people,  amongst  them  even  men  of 
science,  regard  as  immoral  any  attempt  to  prevent  the 
spread  of  venereal  diseases.  Recently,  in  connection  with 
the  investigations  into  the  action  of  mercurial  ointment  as 
a  means  of  preventing  syphilis,  the  members  of  the  Faculty 
of  Medicine  in  France  made  a  public  protest,  declaring 
that  it  would  be  "immoral  to  let  people  think  that  they 
could  indulge  in  sexual  vice  without  danger,"  and  that  it 
was  "  wrong  to  give  to  the  public  a  means  of  protection  in 
debauch."  1  None  the  less,  other  men  of  science,  equally 
serious,  were  convinced  that  they  were  performing  an  abso- 
lutely moral  work  in  attempting  to  find  a  prophylactic 
against  syphilis  which  would  preserve  many  people,  in- 
cluding children  and  other  innocent  persons  who,  if  no 
preventive  measures  existed,  would  suffer  from  the  terrible 

Such  examples  show  the  reader  what  confusion  exists 
in  the  problem  of  morality.  Although  at  every  moment, 
in  every  act  of  human  conduct,  the  precepts  of  morality 
must  be  reckoned  with,  even  the  most  authoritative  persons 
are  far  from  agreeing  as  to  what  rules  to  follow.  About  a 
year  ago  in  a  Parisian  journal2  an  enquiry  into  the  subject 

1   V.  Tribune  medicale,  1906,  p.  449. 
*  La  Revue,  Nov.  1 5th  and  Dec.  ist. 


of  rational  morality  was  directed  to  distinguished  authors. 
The  object  was  to  discover  if,  at  the  present  time,  moral 
conduct  could  be  based  not  on  religious  dogma,  which 
binds  only  those  who  believe  in  it,  but  on  rational  prin- 
ciples. The  answers  were  most  contradictory.  Some 
denied  the  possibility  of  rational  morality,  others  admitted 
it,  but  in  very  different  fashions.  Whilst  one  philosopher, 
M.  Boutroux,  held  that  "morality  must  be  founded  on 
reason  and  could  have  no  other  foundation,"  a  poet,  M. 
Sully-Prudhomme,  turned  to  feeling  and  conscience  as  the 
basis  of  morality.  According  to  him,  "  in  the  teaching  of 
morality,  it  is  the  heart  and  not  the  mind  which  is  at 
once  master  and  pupil."  In  the  contradictions  which  I 
mentioned  in  the  beginning  of  this  chapter,  these  two 
views  appear.  When  antivivisectionists  are  protesting 
against  experiments  on  animals,  they  are  inspired  by  sym- 
pathy for  poor  creatures  which  cannot  defend  themselves. 
Guided  by  conscience,  they  think  immoral  any  suffering  in- 
flicted upon  a  living  being  for  the  benefit  of  another  being, 
whether  human  or  animal.  I  know  distinguished  physio- 
logists who  have  determined  to  limit  their  experiments  to 
animals  with  little  sensibility,  such  as  frogs.  The  great 
majority  of  scientific  men,  however,  would  have  no  scruple 
in  opening  bodies  and  subjecting  their  victims  to  severe 
suffering  in  the  hope  of  clearing  up  some  scientific  problem 
which  sooner  or  later  would  increase  the  happiness  of 
human  beings  and  animals.  If  vivisection  had  not  been  per- 
formed, or  if  it  had  been  restricted,  the  great  laws  of  infec- 
tious diseases  would  not  have  been  discovered,  nor  would 
the  discovery  of  many  valuable  remedies  have  been  made. 
To  justify  investigation,  men  of  science  set  out  from  the 
utilitarian  theory  of  morality,  which  approves  everything 
that  is  useful  to  the  human  race.  The  antivivisectionists,  on 


the  other  hand,  rely  on  the  intuitive  theory,  according  to 
which  conduct  is  controlled  by  the  spontaneous  activity  of 
our  conscience. 

In  the  case  which  I  have  selected  the  problem  is  easy  to 
solve.  It  is  plain  that  vivisection  is  inevitable  in  the  ex- 
perimental investigation  of  vital  processes,  as  it  is  the  only 
means  by  whch  serious  progress  can  be  made.  None  the 
less,  very  many  people  cannot  accept  this  necessity, 
because  of  the  intensity  of  their  love  for  animals. 

In  the  question  of  the  prevention  of  syphilis,  the  moral 
problem  is  still  more  easy  to  settle.  Whilst  in  the  case  of 
vivisection  a  real  suffering  may  be  inflicted  upon  animals, 
in  preventive  measures  against  syphilis,  the  evil  is  more 
or  less  intricate  and  very  problematic.  The  certainty  of 
safety  from  this  disease  might  render  extra-conjugal  rela- 
tions more  frequent,  but  if  we  compare  the  evil  which 
might  come  from  that  with  the  immense  benefit  gained  in 
preventing  so  many  innocent  persons  from  becoming  dis- 
eased, it  is  easy  to  see  to  which  side  the  scale  dips.  The 
indignation  of  those  who  protest  against  the  discovery  of 
preventive  measures  can  never  either  arrest  the  zeal  of  the 
investigators  or  hinder  the  use  of  the  measures.  This 
example  again  shows  that  reasoning  is  necessary  in  the 
solution  of  most  moral  questions. 

However,  the  problems  which  arise  in  actual  life  are 
often  very  much  more  complicated  than  the  two  cases  I 
have  taken  as  an  introduction.  It  is  easy  to  prove  the 
high  utility  of  the  work  of  vivisectors  and  of  those  who 
are  seeking  means  of  preventing  syphilis,  whilst  their 
adversaries  have  nothing  to  invoke  but  their  feelings.  The 
situation  is  quite  different  in  many  questions  which  border 
on  morality.  The  sexual  life  abounds  in  extremely  diffi- 
cult problems,  in  which  it  is  almost  impossible  to  deter- 


mine  what  is  right.  Let  me  recall  the  vagaries  in  the  life 
of  Goethe,  whose  great  genius  was  so  often  in  conflict  with 
the  morality  of  his  time.  Was  he  wrong  in  giving  up 
Frederique  and  Lili  from  the  fear  that  a  permanent  bond 
would  damage  his  poetic  productivity  ?  Then  there  is  the 
moral  question  of  the  marriage  of  men  affected  with 
syphilis,  or  other  diseases  which  might  influence  the  off- 
spring. The  problems  of  the  continence  of  young  people 
before  marriage,  of  prostitution  and  of  means  of  prevent- 
ing conception  are  without  doubt  questions  of  great  im- 
portance, the  solution  of  which  is  extremely  difficult  from 
the  point  of  view  of  morality.  Differences  of  opinion  are 
revealed  in  nearly  everything  relating  to  punishment. 
The  question  of  the  death  penalty  is  much  in  dispute 
and  requires  numerous  investigations  of  different  kinds. 
Statistics  have  been  collected  to  give  information  as  to  the 
utility  or  inutility  of  the  death  penalty.  According  to 
some  results,  capital  punishment  does  not  diminish  the 
number  of  crimes,  whilst  according  to  others  it  has  a  real 
preventive  effect.  Punishments  less  violent  than  death, 
and  particularly  the  punishments  of  children,  are  equally 
troublesome,  and  schoolmasters  have  difficulty  in  finding 
a  solution. 

The  utilitarian  theory  of  morality  often  finds  it  impos- 
sible to  prove  the  advantage  of  the  conduct  it  prescribes, 
and  this  the  more  because  in  many  cases  we  do  not  exactly 
know  who  is  to  profit  by  it.  Is  the  utility  of  any  par- 
ticular act  to  be  considered  so  far  as  it  affects  relatives, 
members  of  the  same  religion,  of  the  same  country,  or 
of  the  same  race,  or  all  humanity  ? 

In  face  of  these  difficulties,  many  moral  philosophers  have 
given  up  the  utilitarian  theory  and  declared  for  an  intui- 
tive theory.  The  basis  of  morality  is  to  be  found  in  a 



feeling  innate  in  every  man,  a  sort  of  social  instinct  urging 
him  to  do  good  to  his  neighbour,  and  which,  by  the  voice 
of  his  own  conscience,  dictates  how  he  ought  to  act  much 
more  precisely  than  could  be  done  by  any  comprehension 
of  the  utility  of  his  conduct. 

It  is  certainly  true  that  man  is  an  animal  living  in  society 
because  of  his  need  for  association  with  other  human 
beings.  But  whilst  in  the  animal  world  the  members  of 
societies  are  actuated  by  an  instinct  which  is  blind  and 
generally  very  precise,  in  man  we  find  nothing  of  the  kind. 
The  social  instinct  appears  in  him  in  endless  variety.  In 
some  of  us  love  of  neighbours  is  extremely  highly 
developed,  so  that  some  persons  are  only  happy  when 
sacrificing  themselves  for  the  public  good.  They  give  all 
that  they  have  to  the  poor,  and  often  die  for  some  ideal 
which  is  necessarily  altruistic.  Such  examples  are  rare. 
Many  men,  however,  profess  an  affection  for  some  of  their 
kind,  devote  themselves  to  their  relations,  their  friends,  or 
their  compatriots,  and  remain  practically  indifferent  to  all 
others.  Other  individuals,  again,  have  an  even  narrower 
sphere  of  affection,  and  take  advantage  of  their  fellows, 
either  in  their  own  interest  or  in  that  of  their  own  family. 
Still  more  rare  are  the  really  wicked  persons  who  have  no 
love  for  anyone  but  themselves  and  who  take  pleasure  in 
doing  harm  to  those  about  them.  Notwithstanding  this 
diversity  in  the  development  of  the  social  instinct,  all  men 
have  to  live  together. 

If  it  were  possible  to  know  the  inner  motives  of  men, 
these  might  be  used  as  a  basis  for  classifying  conduct. 
Those  acts  might  be  described  as  moral  which  were  in- 
spired by  neighbourly  love,  and  those  as  immoral  the 
motive  of  which  was  egoism.  But  it  is  seldom  that  the 
real  motives  are  discovered;  they  lie  deep  down  in  the 


individual  mind,  sometimes  unknown  even  to  the  man  him- 
self. We  can  nearly  always  harmonise  our  acts  with  the 
dictates  of  our  consciences  and  find  reasons  for  the  harm 
we  inflict  upon  others.  It  is  only  rare  natures  that  possess 
a  conscience  so  delicate  as  to  be  always  tormented  lest  they 
are  not  doing  good  to  their  neighbours. 

In  the  course  of  life,  men  are  disposed  to  attribute  bad 
motives  to  their  opponents.  Such  an  attitude  makes 
criticism  easier  and  panders  to  the  common  wish  to  speak 
evil  of  one's  neighbours.  Notwithstanding  the  numerous 
precedents  for  such  an  attitude  amongst  politicians  and 
journalists,  it  must  be  discarded  from  any  serious  study  of 

The  motives  and  the  conscience  are  elusive  elements  of 
little  use  in  any  attempt  to  value  human  conduct.  We 
have  to  fall  back  on  the  consequences  of  action.  Now  it 
is  easy  to  show  that  the  social  instinct  often  leads  to  action 
which  is  not  good.  It  frequently  happens  that  men,  acting 
with  the  highest  and  best  intentions,  do  much  harm. 
Schopenhauer  long  ago  pointed  out  that  morality  based  on 
sentiment  is  a  mere  caricature  of  real  morality.  Impelled 
by  the  altruistic  wish  to  do  good,  men  often  lavish  unre- 
flecting charity  and  do  harm  to  others  and  to  themselves. 
In  Timon  of  Athens  Shakespeare  depicted 

A  most   incomparable  man ;   breathed,   as   it  were, 
To  an  untirable  and  continuate  goodness, 

and  who  gave  away  to  the  right  and  the  left,  creating 
around  him  a  cloud  of  parasites.     He  finally  ruined  him- 
self  and  became  a  hopeless  misanthrope.    Shakespeare  put, 
his  verdict  in  the  mouth  of  Flavius  :  — 

Undone  by  goodness.     Strange,  unusual  blood, 
When  man's  worst  sin  is,  he  does  too  much  good. 

X   2 


Morality,  founded  purely  on  sentiment,  has  inspired  the 
attacks  on  vivisectors  which  in  all  confidence  spread  evil 
amongst  men. 

It  is  a  surprising  result  of  the  great  complexity  of  human 
affairs,  that  society  is  sometimes  better  served  by  wicked 
acts  than  by  acts  inspired  by  the  most  generous  feelings. 
Thus  extremely  rigorous  measures  of  repression  are  often 
more  successful  than  the  half-measures  employed  by 
humane  and  charitable  administrators. 

The  intuitive  theory  of  morality  has  had  no  greater  suc- 
cess than  utilitarianism.  Even  if  the  sentiment  of  society 
were  a  true  basis  of  moral  conduct,  it  fails  in  actual  practice. 
On  the  other  hand,  although  utility  is  the  object  of  all 
morality,  it  is  in  most  cases  so  difficult  to  determine  what  is 
really  useful,  that  utilitarianism  breaks  down  as  the  founda- 
tion of  morality. 

We  must  look  elsewhere  for  principles  which  can  guide 
us  towards  right  conduct. 



Attempts  to  found  morality  on  the  laws  of  human  nature — 
Kant's  theory  of  moral  obligation — Some  criticisms  of  the 
Kantian  theory — Moral  conduct  must  be  guided  by  reason 

EVEN  in  antiquity,  there  were  efforts  to  find  a  basis  for 
morality  other  than  the  precepts  of  religion  based  on  revela- 
tion, but  the  failure  of  such  attempts  has  long  been  ad- 
mitted. In  the  first  chapter  of  The  Nature  of  Man,  I 
described  such  efforts  to  find  a  basis  for  morality  in  human 
nature  itself.  The  Epicureans  and  the  Stoics,  although 
their  doctrines  were  opposed,  each  claimed  to  set  out  from 
human  nature.  The  principle  is  too  vague  for  practical 
use,  as  human  nature  can  be  interpreted  in  very  different 

When  several  attempts  to  find  a  rational  basis  for  morality 
had  failed,  Kant's  theory  appeared  and  was  hailed  by  many 
as  a  real  advance.  None  the  less,  it  has  not  met  with 
general  approval  and  may  be  taken  as  a  supreme  instance 
of  the  failure  to  solve  the  great  problem  of  morality  by 
reason.  I  do  not  wish  to  deal  with  it  at  length,  but  a 
review  of  its  main  outlines  is  pertinent  to  my  argument. 

According  to  Kant,  morality  cannot  be  founded  on  the 
feeling  of  sympathy,  nor  can  it  have  as  its  object  the  happi- 
ness of  men.  Nature  w-ould  have  been  an  unskilful  work- 


man  were  her  object  the  happiness  of  human  beings,  for 
many  lower  animals  have  much  more  happiness.  An  inner 
law  is  the  force  compelling  us  to  morality,  and  without  that 
we  should  have  to  seek  our  guide  in  happiness. 

Kant's  doctrine  is  an  intuitive  theory  of  morality.  It  is 
Based  neither  on  sympathy  nor  on  any  inherent  charity, 
which  would  make  us  covet  happiness  for  our  fellows,  but 
solely  on  the  consciousness  of  duty.  Kant  thought  that 
the  action  of  a  man  who  wished  to  do  good  to  his  fellows 
was  devoid  of  merit.  Conduct  was  moral  only  in  so  far 
as  it  was  obedience  to  the  inner  sense  of  duty.  Schiller's 
epigram  has  thrown  into  relief  this  part  of  the  great  philo- 
sopher's theory,  "When  I  take  pleasure  in  doing  good  to 
my  neighbour,  I  am  uneasy,  as  I  fear  that  I  have  been 
lacking  in  virtue." 

In  his  criticism  of  Kant's  system,  Herbert  Spencer  drew 
a  picture  of  a  world  inhabited  by  men  who  had  no  sym- 
pathy for  their  fellows  and  who  did  good  to  them  against 
their  natural  instincts  and  only  from  a  pure  sense  of  duty. 
Spencer  thought  that  such  a  world  would  be  uninhabitable. 
Clearly,  moral  conduct,  on  the  Kantian  basis,  could  be 
followed  only  by  exceptional  persons,  for  most  men  follow 
their  inclinations  rather  than  any  sense  of  duty.  People 
of  lower  culture  would  accept  kindnesses  from  others  with- 
out caring  whether  the  motive  were  kindness  or  a  sense  of 
duty,  but  highly  civilised  people  would  not  endure  service 
from  those  whom  they  knew  to  be  acting  against  their 
instincts  in  obedience  to  a  sense  of  duty.  And  so  men 
would  be  driven  to  hide  the  real  motives  of  their  conduct, 
lest  they  should  offend  the  sensibility  of  those  towards 
whom  their  moral  conduct  was  directed.  Such  cases,  where 
the  real  motive  is  concealed,  show  how  impossible  it  is  to 
judge  of  conduct  from  the  motives  which  may  be  supposed 


to  have  inspired  it.  As  it  is  generally  impossible  to  know 
whether  some  altruistic  conduct  has  been  inspired  by  kind- 
ness or  has  been  performed  as  a  duty,  it  is  better  to  give 
up  any  attempt  to  appraise  the  springs  of  moral  conduct. 

Kant  himself  realised  the  need  of  some  other  standard 
for  appraising  human  conduct.  With  such  a  purpose  he 
arrived  at  his  well-known  maxim  : — "  Let  your  conduct  be 
such  that  your  motive  might  serve  as  a  standard  of  uni- 
versal application."  To  explain  the  maxim  he  gave  a 
number  of  examples.  A  man  who  is  without  money  and 
cannot  pay  a  debt  is  in  doubt  as  to  whether  he  should 
promise  to  repay  his  creditor.  According  to  Kant,  he 
ought  to  ask  himself  what  would  be  the  result  if  such  a 
promise  were  to  be  made  under  similar  circumstances  by 
everyone.  It  is  plain  that  if  such  false  promises  became 
universal,  they  would  cease  to  be  believed  and  so  would 
be  impracticable  in  actual  life.  Kant's  formula,  therefore, 
would  supply  a  rational  basis  for  the  discrimination  of 
immoral  conduct.  In  the  case  of  theft  it  would  operate  as 
follows  :  if  it  became  the  custom  for  everyone  to  take  what- 
ever he  wanted,  private  property  and  theft  would  simul- 
taneously cease  to  exist.  So  also  suicide  is  immoral,  since 
if  it  became  general  the  human  race  would  cease  to  exist. 

Kant,  however,  was  looking  at  only  one  side  of  the 
problem.  Moral  conduct  is  frequently  limited  to  an  indi- 
vidual, and  cannot  be  generalised  for  all  humanity.  Thus, 
for  instance,  if  one  about  to  sacrifice  his  life  for  the  good 
of  his  fellows  were  to  estimate  his  action  according  to 
Kant's  formula,  he  would  reach  a  conclusion  similar  to  that 
in  the  case  of  suicide;  if  everyone  were  to  sacrifice  his  life 
for  others,  no  one  would  remain  alive,  and  so,  according  to 
Kant,  the  sacrifice  of  one's  life  for  the  good  of  others  would 
be  an  immoral  act. 


It  is  plain  that  in  his  search  for  a  rational  basis  of  moral- 
ity, Kant  found  only  a  hollow  form,  void  of  any  substantial 
body  of  morality.  It  is  not  enough  that  a  moral  man 
should  take  his  consciousness  of  duty  as  a  guide.  He  must 
know  what  would  be  the  result  of  his  acts.  If  it  is  immoral 
to  make  a  false  promise,  it  is  because  people  would  lose 
confidence  in  such  promises,  and  confidence  is  necessary 
to  our  well-being.  When  the  formula  of  Kant  condemns 
theft,  it  is  because,  if  theft  became  general,  there  could  be 
no  private  property,  and  property  is  regarded  as  necessary 
to  the  well-being  of  men.  Suicide  is  immoral,  according  to 
Kant,  because  it  would  lead  to  the  disappearance  of  the 
human  race,  and  human  life  is  of  course  a  good. 

Kant  tried  to  found  his  theory  of  morality  on  a  rational 
basis  which  excluded  the  idea  of  the  general  good,  but  it 
was  impossible  for  him  to  avoid  it.  His  "  practical  reason," 
when  it  raised  the  consciousness  of  duty  to  a  principle, 
should  have  pointed  the  goal  towards  which  moral  acts 
were  to  be  directed.  In  this  matter,  I  find  that  Kant's 
ideas  are  very  vague,  although  extremely  interesting. 

The  innate  feeling  of  duty  implies  the  will  to  pursue 
moral  conduct.  This  will  is  independent  of  the  circum- 
ambient conditions.  Kant  in  his  nebulous  language  ex- 
plains this  consideration  as  follows  : — "  Our  reason  informs 
us  of  a  law  to  which  all  our  maxims  are  subject,  as  if  our 
will  had  created  its  own  natural  order  of  things.  This  law, 
then,  is  in  the  sphere  of  a  nature  which  we  do  not  know 
empirically  but  which  the  freedom  of  the  will  makes  possible, 
a  nature  which  is  supra-sensible,  but  which  from  the  prac- 
tical point  of  view  we  make  objective,  because  it  is  created 
by  our  will  in  virtue  of  our  existence  as  rational  beings. 
The  difference  between  the  laws  of  a  nature  to  which  the 
will  is  subject  and  a  nature  subject  to  the  will  subsists  in 


this,  that  in  the  first  the  objects  must  be  the  causes  which 
determine  -the  will,  whilst  in  the  second,  the  will  itself 
causes  the  objects  so  that  the  causality  of  the  will  resides 
exclusively  in  pure  reason,  pure  reason  being  thus  practical 
reason  "  (Critique  of  Practical  Reason). 

So  far  as  I  can  follow  the  argument  of  Kant,  it  seems  to 
me  to  imply  that  rational  morality  cannot  be  bound  by 
human  nature  as  it  exists.  I  may  perhaps  interpret  Kant's 
thought  as  if  he  had  the  intuition  that  the  moral  will  was 
capable  of  modifying  nature  by  subjecting  it  to  its  own 

On  the  other  hand,  several  critics  of  Kant  have  attempted 
to  improve  his  theory  of  morality  by  reconciling  it  with 
human  nature  as  it  actually  exists.  Vacherot,1  for  instance, 
has  taken  such  an  attitude  in  the  most  definite  fashion. 
He  insists  that  Kant  "did  not  appreciate  the  capital  im- 
portance of  the  object  of  the  moral  law.  The  problem 
which  under  the  designation  summum  bonum  absorbed 
the  schools  of  antiquity  plays  a  minor  part  in  the  Kantian 
theory.  Kant  should  have  recognised  that  human  destiny 
is  not  limited  to  duty  but  must  include  happiness  "  (p.  316). 

But  what  is  this  "  happiness  "  which  is  to  be  the  standard 
of  human  actions  ?  To  answer  this  Vacherot  places  him- 
self in  the  position  of  those  ancient  philosophers  whom  I 
discussed  in  The  Nature  of  Man.  He  makes  his  point 
absolutely  clear.  "What  is  the  'good'  for  any  being? 
The  attaining  of  its  purpose.  What  is  the  purpose  of  a 
being  ?  The  simple  development  of  its  nature.  Apply 
this  to  man  and  morality.  When  human  nature  is  known 
by  observation  and  analysis,  the  deduction  can  be  made  as 
to  what  is  the  purpose,  and  the  good,  and  therefore  the  law 
,of  man.  For  the  conception  of  the  good  necessarily  in- 

1  Essais  de  Philosophie  critique,  Paris,  1864. 


volves  the  idea  of  duty  and  of  law  to  be  imposed  on  the 
will.  We  have  to  fall  back,  then,  on  knowledge  of  man,  but 
it  must  be  complete  knowledge,  a  recognition  of  the  facul- 
ties, feelings,  and  inclinations  that  are  peculiar  to  him  and 
that  distinguish  him  from  animals"  (p.  319).  Here  is  a 
summary  of  this  doctrine: — "Develop  all  our  natural 
powers,  subordinating  those  which  are  subsidiary  to  those 
which  form  the  peculiar  quality  of  human  beings ;  this  is 
the  true  economy  of  the  little  world  we  call  human  life; 
this  is  its  purpose  and  this  its  law.  The  formula  states  in 
the  most  scientific  and  least  doubtful  form  a  very  old  truth, 
the  foundation  of  all  morality  and  the  test  of  all  its  applica- 
tions. If  we  seek  to  know  what  are  justice,  duty  and 
virtue,  we  must  look  in  the  world  itself,  and  not  above  or 
below  it"  (Op.  301). 

Professor  Paulsen,  a  more  recent  critic  of  Kant,  comes 
to  a  similar  conclusion.1  He  thinks  that  Kant  should  have 
modified  his  formula  in  some  such  way  as  follows  : — "  The 
laws  of  morality  are  rules  which  might  serve  for  a  natural 
legislation  for  human  life;  in  other  words,  rules  that,  when 
they  guided  conduct  according  to  natural  law,  would  result 
in  the  preservation  and  supreme  development  of  human 

From  whatever  side  we  examine  the  problem  of  morality, 
we  come  to  submit  conduct  to  the  laws  of  human  nature. 
Sutherland,  a  modern  author  who  discusses  morality  by 
the  scientific  method,  defines  morality  as  "  conduct  guided 
by  rational  sympathy."  Such  sympathy  would  not  subor- 
dinate the  chief  good  of  others  to  an  advantage  less  impor- 
tant but  more  immediate.  Thus  a  mother  may  sympathise 
with  her  child  when  it  has  to  take  some  unpleasant 

1  System   der  Ethik^   7th  and   8th  editions,   vol.   i,   p.    199.     Berlin 



medicine;  but  if  her  sympathy  be  rational  she  will  not  let 
it  interfere  with  the  health  of  the  child. 

In  the  foregoing  case,  sympathy  has  to  be  controlled  by 
medical  knowledge.  In  moral  conduct  generally,  reason 
must  be  the  determining  factor,  whatever  be  the  inspiring 
motive  of  the  conduct,  whether  it  come  from  sympathy  or 
from  the  sense  of  duty.  And  thus  morality  in  the  last  resort 
must  be  based  on  scientific  knowledge. 



Individual  morality — History  of  two  brothers  brought  up  in 
same  circumstances,  but  whose  conduct  was  quite  different 
— Late  development  of  the  sense  of  life — Evolution  of  sym- 
pathy— The  sphere  of  egoism  in  moral  conduct — Christian 
morality — Morality  of  Herbert  Spencer — Danger  of  exalted 

ALTHOUGH  moral  conduct  refers  specially  to  the  relations 
between  men,  there  exists  a  morality  of  the  individual. 
As  this  latter  is  simpler,  I  shall  consider  it  first  in  my 
investigation  of  rational  morality. 

When  a  man,  seeking  his  individual  happiness,  gives 
way  to  his  inclinations  without  restraint,  he  often  comes  to 
behave  in  a  way  that  is  generally  regarded  as  immoral. 
Following  his  inclination,  he  may  become  idle  and  drunken. 
Idleness  may  depend  on  some  irregularity  of  the  brain,  and 
may  thus  be  as  natural  as  is  the  wish  to  take  drink  in  the 
case  of  a  man  to  whom  alcohol  brings  a  feeling  of  well- 
being  and  gaiety.  Why  is  it  that  idleness  and  alcoholism 
are  immoral  ?  Is  it  because  they  prevent  the  living  of  life 
in  its  completest  and  widest  sense,  according  to  the  theory 
of  Herbert  Spencer  ?  But  it  is  precisely  in  this  way  that 
the  adherents  of  the  theory  justify  all  kinds  of  excess  with- 
out which  fullness  and  width  of  life  seem  to  them  impos- 


Whilst  vices  such  as  idleness  and  drunkenness  arise 
directly  from  qualities  of  the  human  constitution,  they 
must  be  regarded  as  immoral  because  they  prevent  the 
completion  of  the  ideal  cycle  of  human  life.  I  knew  two 
brothers,  almost  the  same  age,  subject  to  the  same  influ- 
ences, and  brought  up  in  the  same  environment.  None 
the  less,  their  tastes  and  conduct  were  very  different.  The 
older  brother,  although  very  intelligent,  during  his  college 
career  devoted  himself  eagerly  to  bodily  exercises  and 
indulged  in  every  way  his  inclination  for  pleasure.  "  As 
the  chief  end  of  life  is  happiness,"  he  said,  "one  must  try 
to  get  as  much  of  it  as  possible,"  and  so  he  got  into  the 
habit  of  visiting  places  where  there  was  most  amusement. 
Cards,  good  living,  and  women  furnished  for  him  the  means 
of  pleasure.  As  his  ability  was  unusual,  he  passed  his 
examinations  almost  without  having  worked.  The  example 
of  his  younger  brother,  always  a  devoted  student,  did  not 
attract  him.  "It  is  all  very  well  for  you,"  he  said,  "as 
you  find  your  happiness  in  work  ;  as  for  me,  I  detest  books, 
and  I  am  happy  only  when  I  am  giving  myself  up  to 
pleasure.  Everyone  must  take  his  own  road  to  the  goal 
of  life."  As  a  result,  the  health  of  the  older  brother  wras 
seriously  affected  by  his  mode  of  life.  He  acquired  some 
disease  of  the  circulatory  system,  had  to  face  the  end, 
and  died  at  the  age  of  fifty-six.  The  last  years  of  his  life 
were  very  unhappy,  as  the  instinct  of  life  developed  in  him 
extremely  strongly.  He  was  a  victim  of  his  own  ignorance 
because  when  he  was  young  he  did  not  know  that  the  sense 
of  life  would  develop  later  on,  and  would  become  much 
stronger  than  in  his  youth.  His  brother  was  equally  un- 
aware of  this  fact,  but,  absorbed  in  scientific  study,  he  kept 
himself  apart  from  the  indulgences  of  youth  and  lived  a 
sober  life.  In  this  way  he  found  that  his  strength  and 


activity  were  fully  preserved  at  a  time  of  life  when  his 
older  brother  was  already  a  physical  wreck. 

I  have  quoted  this  example,  not  to  repeat  the  banal  idea 
that  a  sober  life  is  followed  by  a  healthier  old  age  than  an 
intemperate  life,  but  because  I  wish  to  insist  on  the  import- 
ance of  the  development  of  the  instinct  of  life  in  the  course 
of  each  individual  life.  I  see  that  this  idea  is  very  little 
known.  I  was  present  at  the  last  moments  of  my  older 
brother  (he  was  called  Ivan  Ilyitch,  and  he  was  the  subject 
of  the  famous  story  of  Tolstoi  :  The  Death  of  Ivan  Ilyitch). 
Knowing  that  he  was  going  to  die  from  pyemia,  at  the 
age  of  forty-five,  my  brother  preserved  his  great  intelli- 
gence in  all  its  clearness.  As  I  sat  by  his  bedside  he 
told  me  his  reflections  in  the  most  objective  fashion 
possible.  The  idea  of  his  death  was  for  long  very  terrible 
to  him,  but  "  as  we  all  die  "  he  came  to  "  resign  himself, 
saying  that  after  all  there  was  only  a  quantitative  difference 
between  death  at  the  age  of  forty-five  and  later  on."  This 
reflection,  which  relieved  the  moral  sufferings  of  my 
brother,  is  none  the  less  untrue.  The  sense  of  life  is  very 
different  at  different  ages,  and  a  man  who  lives  beyond  the 
age  of  forty-five  experiences  many  sensations  which  he  did 
not  know  before.  There  is  a  great  evolution  of  the  mind 
during  the  advance  of  age. 

Even  if  we  do  not  accept  the  existence  of  an  instinct  of 
natural  death  as  the  crown  of  normal  life,  we  cannot  deny 
that  youth  is  only  a  preparatory  stage  and  that  the  mind 
does  not  acquire  its  final  development  until  later  on.  This 
conception  should  be  the  fundamental  principle  of  the 
science  of  life  and  the  guide  for  education  and  practical 

Individual  morality  consists  of  conduct  permitting  the 
accomplishment  of  the  normal  cycle  of  life  and  ending  in 


a  feeling  of  satisfaction  as  complete  as  possible  and  which 
can  be  reached  only  in  advanced  age.  And  so,  when  we 
see  a  man  wasting  his  health  and  strength  and  youth,  and 
thus  making  himself  incapable  of  feeling  the  most  com- 
plete pleasure  in  life,  we  call  him  immoral. 

A  man  entirely  isolated  does  not  exist  in  nature.  We 
are  born  weak  and  incapable  of  satisfying  our  needs  and 
at  once  come  into  relations  with  the  human  being  who 
feeds  us  and  protects  us.  The  child,  although  egoistic, 
becomes  attached  to  his  protector,  and  in  this  way  the  feel- 
ing of  sympathy  is  born.  Guided  by  this  feeling  as  well 
as  by  the  sense  of  his  own  interest,  the  child  soon  begins 
to  employ  his  will  in  restraining  some  of  his  instincts,  which, 
none  the  less,  are  quite  natural.  Thus,  the  fear  of  being 
deprived  of  food  makes  him  obedient  to  his  protectors. 
The  child  cannot  complete  his  normal  cycle  without  pursu- 
ing a  certain  moral  conduct. 

When  he  becomes  adult,  man  experiences  the  instinctive 
need  of  relations  with  someone  of  the  other  sex.  This  need 
lays  certain  duties  on  him,  and  although  the  love  of  a 
young  man  is  less  egoistical  than  that  of  the  child,  it  is 
far  from  presenting  the  characters  of  self-abnegation  and 

A  young  woman,  after  having  passed  through  the  usual 
cycle  of  life  with  her  mother  and  with  a  man,  becomes 
herself  a  mother.  Maternal  instinct  furnishes  her  with 
certain  rules  of  conduct,  but  this  natural  instinct  is  not 
enough  to  fulfil  its  object,  that  is  to  say,  to  rear  the  child 
until  an  age  when  it  can  live  independently.  Directed  by 
a  feeling  of  sympathy  for  her  child,  the  young  mother 
learns  from  women  with  more  experience  to  ward  off 
dangers  from  her  child.  In  the  first  years,  moral  conduct 
on  the  part  of  the  mother  consists  almost  entirely  in  bring- 


ing  up  the  child  in  a  healthy  way.  For  this  purpose  she 
must  acquire  much  knowledge.  If  she  remains  ignorant, 
her  conduct  must  be  regarded  as  immoral. 

So  far  as  concerns  the  bringing  up  of  a  child,  the  moral 
problem  is  quite  simple,  because  we  are  all  agreed  that  the 
object  is  to  rear  the  child  to  maturity  in  the  healthiest  pos- 
sible condition.  When  the  child  exhibits  any  habits 
harmful  to  this  object,  although  due  to  natural  instincts, 
the  mother  applies  her  knowledge  to  restrain  them  without 
paying  attention  to  the  theory  that  happiness  consists  in  the 
fulfilment  of  everything  that  is  natural.  When  a  child  has 
passed  through  the  perilous  first  period  of  its  life,  the 
mother  has  to  ask  what  general  object  she  is  to  follow  in 
its  education.  She  wishes  her  child  to  be  as  happy  as 
possible.  Here  the  conception  of  orthobiosis  will  serve 
her,  and  it  will  teach  her  that  the  greatest  happiness  con- 
sists in  the  normal  evolution  of  the  sense  of  life,  leading 
to  serene  old  age,  and  finally  reaching  the  fulness  of  satiety 
of  life.  Man,  who  has  passed  his  apprenticeship  to  life 
from  his  birth,  with  his  protectors,  and,  later  on,  with 
persons  of  the  other  •  sex,  inevitably  acquires  certain 
elements  necessary  for  social  life.  Persuaded  that  in  order 
to  succeed  in  his  individual  life  he  must  have  help  from 
his  fellows,  he  learns  to  subdue  his  anti-social  tendencies, 
at  first  in  his  own  interests.  Let  me  take  an  example  of 
this.  When  a  man  has  reached  a  certain  stage  of  civilisa- 
tion, it  generally  becomes  impossible  to  him  to  supply  his 
bodily  wants  without  the  help  of  persons  less  cultured  than 
himself.  He  takes  into  his  house  one  or  more  servants, 
with  whom  he  enters  into  definite  relations.  He  wishes  for 
himself  and  those  about  him  a  normal  life,  such  as  I  have 
described  in  The  Nature  of  Man.  To  attain  this  it  is  in- 
dispensable in  his  own  interest  and  in  that  of  his  family, 


that  his  domestic  servants  should  be  well  treated.  The 
health  of  the  family  very  often  depends  on  the  conduct  of 
the  servants,  who  will  follow  conscientiously  the  hygienic 
rules  only  if  they  themselves  are  living  in  good  conditions. 
The  custom  according  to  which  the  masters  live  in  luxu- 
riously furnished  rooms,  while  their  servants  have  mean 
quarters  in  the  attics,  is  immoral  from  the  point  of  view  of 
the  well-being  of  the  masters  themselves.  The  crowded 
servants'  quarters  are  a  nest  of  all  sorts  of  infection,  which 
may  spread  in  the  families  of  the  masters.  Very  often 
people  who  think  that  they  are  following  the  rules  of  exact 
hygiene  contract  diseases  without  knowing  that  the  infec- 
tion has  come  from  their  servants. 

Anger  gives  us  another  example.  It  is  certainly  harmful 
to  the  health,  and  so  should  be  controlled  in  the  interest 
of  the  bad-tempered  person  himself.  Fits  of  rage  are  fre- 
quently followed  by  ruptures  of  blood-vessels,  and  by 
diabetes,  and  even  cataracts  have  developed  after  some 
violent  passion. 

Luxurious  habits  are  also  well  known  to  be  harmful  to 
the  health.  Heavy  meals,  evenings  passed  in  the  theatre 
and  in  society  may  seriously  affect  activity  of  the  organs. 
Moreover,  the  luxury  of  some  people  is  often  the  cause  of 
misery  to  others.  The  knowledge  that  luxurious  habits 
shorten  life  and  prevent  man  from  reaching  the  greatest 
happiness  may  warn  people  against  luxury  better  than 
the  appeal  to  the  feeling  of  sympathy. 

As  it  is  a  fact  that  most  men  guide  their  lives  generally 
from  egoistic  motives,  any  theory  of  morality  which  is  to 
be  put  into  practice  must  reckon  seriously  with  this  factor. 
All  other  systems  have  recognised  it.  In  the  Sermon  on 
the  Mount,  which  is  a  summary  of  Christian  morality,  each 
moral  act  is  recognised  on  the  ground  that  it  will  bring 



some  reward  or  obviate  some  punishment.  "  Rejoice," 
said  Jesus,  "and  be  exceeding  glad;  for  great  is  your 
reward  in  heaven"  (Matt,  v.,  12).  "Take  heed  that  ye 
do  not  your  alms  before  men,  to  be  seen  of  them ;  otherwise 
ye  have  no  reward  of  your  Father  which  is  in  heaven" 
(Matt,  vi.,  i).  "That  thine  alms  may  be  in  secret;  and 
thy  Father  which  seeth  in  secret  himself  shall  reward  thee 
openly"  (Matt,  vi.,  4).  "Judge  not,  that  ye  be  not 
judged"  (Matt,  vii.,  i).  "But  if  ye  forgive  not  men 
their  trespasses,  neither  will  your  Father  forgive  your  tres- 
passes "  (Matt,  vi.,  15).  Jesus  had  no  high  opinion  of 
the  influence  of  altruism  on  human  conduct. 

Herbert  Spencer  in  his  treatise  on  morality  (The  Data 
of  Ethics)  also  insists  that  laws  of  conduct,  to  be  of 
general  application,  must  not  require  men  to  make  too  great 
sacrifices,  as  otherwise  the  best  teaching  would  remain  a 
dead  letter.  He  imagines,  however,  that  in  the  future  the 
human  race  will  be  so  much  improved  that  moral  conduct 
will  become  instinctive,  needing  no  compulsion.  The  Eng- 
lish philosopher  presents  a  view  of  the  future  of  the  human 
race  totally  at  variance  with  the  Kantian  conception. 
Instead  of  human  beings  becoming  filled  with  a  sense  of 
duty  opposed  to  their  natural  instincts,  the  world  will  be 
peopled  with  men  acting  morally  from  inclination,  so 
making  the  world  delightful. 

The  ideal  is  so  far  removed  from  existing  conditions  that 
the  possibility  of  its  attainment  is  hardly  worth  consider- 
ing. It  is  probable  that  a  world  whose  inhabitants  had 
the  feeling  of  sympathy  very  highly  developed  would  not 
be  so  delightful.  For  sympathy  is  generally  a  reaction 
against  evil.  When  evil  disappears,  sympathy  would  be 
not  merely  useless,  but  annoying  and  harmful. 

George  Eliot  in  Middlemarch  describes  a  young  woman 


enthusiastically  anxious  to  do  good  to  her  fellows.  When 
she  came  to  live  in  a  village,  she  made  great  plans  to 
succour  its  poor.  Her  disillusion  and  annoyance  were 
great  when  she  found  that  the  villagers  were  quite  com- 
fortably off,  and  had  no  need  of  her  charity. 

John  Stuart  Mill  in  his  Autobiography  relates  that  when 
he  was  young  he  dreamed  of  reforming  society  and  making 
everyone  happy.  But  when  he  asked  himself  if  the  accom- 
plishment of  his  beautiful  ideas  would  make  him  happy, 
he  was  compelled  to  answer  "No!  "  and  this  discovery 
plunged  the  young  philosopher  into  a  lamentable  condi- 
tion. He  described  himself  as  quite  overcome,  all  that 
supported  him  in  life  crumbling  away.  His  happiness 
could  lie  only  in  the  constant  pursuit  of  his  object,  and  the 
charm  seemed  broken,  because  if  attainment  were  not  to 
please  him,  how  could  the  means  be  of  any  interest  to 
him  ?  It  -seemed  to  him  that  nothing  was  left  to  which 
he  could  dedicate  his  life. 

As  it  is  highly  probable  that  with  the  advance  of  civilisa-. 
tion  the  greatest  evils  of  humanity  will  become  lessened, 
and  may  even  disappear,  the  sacrifices  to  be  made  will  also 
become  less.  Now  that  there  is  a  serum  which  protects 
against  plague,  there  is  no  room  for  the  heroism  of  the 
doctors  who  used  to  incur  the  greatest  danger  in  fighting 
epidemics.  Until  lately  doctors  used  to  risk  their  life  in 
treating  the  throats  of  diphtheric  patients.  A  young  doctor 
who  was  a  friend  of  mine,  of  high  ability  and  promise,  died 
from  diphtheria  contracted  under  these  conditions.  He 
met  his  death,  in  isolation  from  his  friends  in  case  of  infect- 
ing them,  with  the  utmost  heroism.  Now  that  the  anti- 
diphtheric  serum  has  been  discovered,  such  heroism  would 
be  unnecessary.  The  advance  of  science  has  removed  the 
occasion  of  such  sacrifices. 

Y  2 


It  is  now  very  long  since  there  has  been  opportunity  for 
the  heroism  which  steeled  the  hand  of  Abraham  to  sacri- 
fice his  only  son  to  his  religion.  Human  sacrifice,  based  on 
the  highest  morality,  has  become  more  and  more  rare,  and 
will  finally  disappear.  Rational  morality,  although  it  may 
admire  such  conduct,  has  no  use  for  it.  So  also,  it  may 
foresee  a  time  when  men  will  be  so  highly  developed  that 
instead  of  being  delighted  to  take  advantage  of  the  sym- 
pathy of  their  fellows,  they  will  refuse  it  absolutely. 
Neither  the  Kantian  idea  of  virtue,  doing  good  as  a  pure 
duty,  nor  that  of  Herbert  Spencer,  according  to  which 
men  have  an  instinctive  need  to  help  their  fellows,  will  be 
realised  in  the  future.  The  ideal  will  rather  be  that  of 
men  who  will  be  self-sufficient  and  who  will  no  longer 
permit  others  to  do  them  good. 



Human  nature  must  be  modified  according  to  an  ideal — 
Comparison  with  the  modification  of  the  constitution  of 
plants  and  of  animals — Schlanstedt  rye — Burbank's 
plants — The  ideal  of  orthobiosis — The  immorality  of  ignor- 
ance— The  place  of  hygiene  in  the  social  life — The  place  of 
altruism  in  moral  conduct — The  freedom  of  the  theory  of 
orthobiosis  from  metaphysics 

As  I  have  shown  in  The  Nature  of  Man,  the  human  con- 
stitution as  it  exists  to-day,  being  the  result  of  a  long 
evolution  and  containing  a  large  animal  element,  cannot 
furnish  the  basis  of  rational  morality.  The  conception 
which  has  come  down  from  antiquity  to  modern  times,  of 
a  harmonious  activity  of  all  the  organs,  is  no  longer  appro- 
priate to  mankind.  Organs  which  are  in  course  of  atrophy 
must  not  be  reawakened,  and  many  natural  characters 
which  perhaps  were  useful  in  the  case  of  animals  must  be 
made  to  disappear  in  men. 

Human  nature,  which,  like  the  constitutions  of  other 
organisms,  is  subject  to  evolution,  must  be  modified  accord- 
ing to  a  definite  ideal.  Just  as  a  gardener  or  stock  raiser 
is  not  content  with  the  existing  nature  of  the  plants  and 
animals  with  which  he  is  occupied,  but  modifies  them  to 
suit  his  purposes,  so  also  the  scientific  philosopher  must 
not  think  of  existing  human  nature  as  immutable,  but  must 
try  to  modify  it  for  the  advantage  of  mankind. 


As  bread  is  the  chief  article  in  human  food,  attempts 
to  improve  cereals  have  been  made  for  a  very  long  time. 
Rimpau  made  one  of  the  greatest  steps  in  this  direction 
when  he  introduced  into  cultivation  a  variety  of  rye  known 
as  Schlanstedt  rye,  now  fairly  abundant  in  France  and 
Germany.  Rimpau  set  himself  the  task  of  producing  a 
variety  with  the  longest  ears  and  containing  many  and 
heavy  grains.  Having  conceived  his  ideal,  he  began  to 
seek  out  what  was  nearest  to  it  in  a  very  large  number  of 
examples  of  rye.  After  patient  and  continued  labour, 
using  careful  selection  and  cross-fertilisation,  Rimpau 
succeeded  in  making  the  new  variety,  and  so  did  a  great 
service  to  mankind. 

Burbank,1  an  American  horticulturist,  has  recently 
gained  a  wide  reputation  because  of  his  improvements  of 
useful  plants.  He  has  produced  a  new  kind  of  potato 
which  has  raised  the  value  of  potato  crops  in  the  United 
States  by  about  .£3,500,000  per  annum.  Burbank  cultivated 
great  numbers  of  fruit  trees,  flowers,  and  all  kinds  of 
plants,  with  the  object  of  increasing  their  utility.  One  of 
his  objects  was  to  produce  varieties  which  could  resist 
dry  conditions,  which  reproduced  rapidly  and  so  forth. 
He  has  modified  the  nature  of  plants  to  such  an  extent  that 
he  has  cactus  plants  and  brambles  without  thorns.  The 
succulent  leaves  of  the  former  provide  an  excellent  food  for 
cattle,  whilst  the  absence  of  thorns  in  the  latter  makes 
their  pleasant  fruit  more  suitable  for  gardens.  Burbank 
has  enormously  improved  the  production  of  stoneless 
plums,  and  has  very  much  reduced  the  price  of  many  bulbs 
and  lilies  by  increasing  their  productivity. 

To  obtain  such  results  much  knowledge  and  a  long 
period  of  time  were  necessary.  To  modify  the  nature  of 
1  De  Vries,  in  Biologisches  Centralblatt,  1906,  Sept.  ist,  p.  609. 


plants  it  was  necessary  to  understand  them  well.  To  frame 
the  new  ideal  of  the  plant  it  was  necessary  not  only  to  have 
an  exact  conception  of  what  was  wanted,  but  to  find  out  if 
the  qualities  of  the  plants  in  question  furnished  any  hope 
of  realising  it. 

The  methods  which  have  been  successful  in  the  case  of 
plants  and  animals  must  be  much  modified  for  application 
to  the  human  race.  In  the  case  of  human  beings  the  selec- 
tion and  cross-breeding  which  were  imposed  upon  rye  and 
plum  trees  are  not  possible,  but,  at  the  same  time,  the 
ideal  of  human  nature,  towards  which  mankind  ought  to 
press,  may  be  formed.  In  our  opinion  this  ideal  is  ortho- 
biosis,  that  is  to  say,  the  development  of  the  human  life 
so  that  it  passes  through  a  long  period  of  old  age  in  active 
and  vigorous  health,  leading  to  the  final  period  in  which 
there  shall  be  present  a  sense  of  satiety  of  life,  and  a 
wish  for  death.  I  do  not  think  that  the  ideal  should  be 
that  of  Herbert  Spencer,  a  simple  prolongation  of  human 
life.  When  the  instinct  of  death  comes  at  a  not  very  late 
period  of  life,  there  would  be  no  inconvenience  in  shorten- 
ing the  life,  if  death  did  not  come  soon  after  the  appear- 
ance of  the  instinct.  Probably  this  would  be  the  only  case 
where  suicide  was  justified  in  the  conception  of  orthobiosis. 

The  foregoing  is  the  case  of  an  action  in  conformity 
with  the  ideal,  but  quite  contrary  to  human  nature  as  it  is 
at  present.  A  similar  contradiction  appears  in  reproduc- 
tion. Man  came  from  animals  amongst  which  unlimited 
reproduction  was  an  important  factor  in  the  preser- 
vation of  the  species,  as  it  allowed  the  species  to  survive 
under  all  sorts  of  bad  conditions,  such  as  diseases,  com- 
bats, attacks  of  enemies,  and  changes  of  climate.  Although 
man,  according  to  the  laws  of  human  nature,  is  capable 
of  reproducing  extremely  rapidly,  the  ideal  of  his  happiness 


makes  a  restriction  of  this  power  necessary.  Thus  ortho- 
biosis,  based  upon  knowledge  of  human  nature,  would  set 
limits  to  a  function  which  is  perhaps  the  most  natural  of 
all.  The  restriction  which  is  already  partially  adopted 
will  come  more  and  more  into  operation  as  the  struggle 
against  diseases,  the  prolongation  of  human  life,  and  the 
suppression  of  war  make  progress.  It  will  be  one  of  the 
chief  means  of  diminishing  the  most  brutal  forms  of  the 
struggle  for  existence,  and  of  increasing  moral  conduct 
amongst  mankind. 

Just  as  Rimpau  began  to  study  the  nature  of  plants 
before  trying  to  realise  his  ideal,  so  also  varied  and  pro- 
found knowledge  is  the  first  requisite  for  the  ideal  of  moral 
conduct.  It  is  necessary  not  only  to  know  the  structure 
and  function  of  the  human  organism,  but  to  have  exact 
ideas  on  human  life  as  it  is  in  society.  Scientific  know- 
ledge is  so  indispensable  for  moral  conduct  that  ignorance 
must  be  placed  among  the  most  immoral  acts.  A  mother 
who  rears  her  child  in  defiance  of  good  hygiene,  from  want 
of  knowledge,  is  acting  immorally  towards  her  offspring, 
notwithstanding  her  feeling  of  sympathy.  And  this  also 
is  true  of  a  Government  which  remains  in  ignorance  of  the 
laws  which  regulate  human  life  and  human  society. 

It  must  be  well  understood  that  I  am  not  here  thinking  of 
written  knowledge,  set  down  in  treatises  and  volumes. 
Rimpau  and  Burbank  went  outside  manuals  of  botany  to 
obtain  their  knowledge.  Besides  books,  wide  ideas  on  the 
practice  of  life  are  required  to  direct  aright  the  conduct  of 
men.  A  doctor  who  has  just  finished  his  studies  at  the 
hospital,  notwithstanding  all  his  knowledge,  is  not  yet  suffi- 
ciently trained  to  be  a  good  practitioner.  He  must  acquire 
the  habit  of  treating  patients,  and  for  this  years  are  re- 
quired. So  also  is  it  with  regard  to  the  practical  applica- 


tions  of  the  principles  of  morality.  The  regulation  of 
conduct  requires  profound  knowledge  both  theoretical  and 
practical,  and  men  selected  to  frame  or  to  apply  laws  of 
morality  must  have  this  double  qualification.  If  the  human 
race  come  to  adopt  the  principles  of  orthobiosis,  a  consider- 
able change  in  the  qualities  of  men  of  different  ages  will 
follow.  Old  age  will  be  postponed  so  much  that  men  of 
from  sixty  to  seventy  years  of  age  will  retain  their  vigour, 
and  will  not  require  to  ask  assistance  in  the  fashion  now 
necessary.  On  the  other  hand,  young  men  of  twenty-one 
years  of  age  will  no  longer  be  thought  mature  or  ready  to 
fulfil  functions  so  difficult  as  taking  a  share  in  public  affairs. 
The  view  which  I  set  forth  in  The  Nature  of  Man  regard- 
ing the  danger  which  comes  from  the  present  interference  of 
young  men  in  political  affairs  has  since  then  been  confirmed 
in  the  most  striking  fashion. 

It  is  easily  intelligible  that  in  the  new  conditions  such 
modern  idols  as  universal  suffrage,  public  opinion,  and  the 
referendum,  in  which  the  ignorant  masses  are  called  on  to 
decide  questions  which  demand  varied  and  profound  know- 
ledge, will  last  no  longer  than  the  old  idols.  The  progress 
of  human  knowledge  will  bring  about  the  replacement  of 
such  institutions  by  others,  in  which  applied  morality  will 
be  controlled  by  the  really  competent  persons.  I  permit 
myself  to  suppose  that  in  these  times,  scientific  training 
will  be  much  more  general  than  it  is  just  now,  and  that  it 
will  occupy  the  place  which  it  deserves  in  education  and  in 

It  is  equally  clear  that  if  a  mother  is  to  act  morally  with 
regard  to  her  child,  she  must  teach  herself  properly.  In 
place  of  mythology  and  literature,  she  must  learn  hygiene 
and  all  that  relates  to  the  rational  rearing  of  children.  So, 
also,  in  the  education  of  men,  the  study  of  the  exact 


sciences  must  occupy  by  far  the  most  important  place. 
Then  only  will  moral  conduct  and  scientific  knowledge 
begin  to  unite.  An  ignorant  mother  will  bring  up  a  child 
very  badly  notwithstanding  all  her  good  will  and  her  affec- 
tion. A  doctor,  however  imbued  with  strong  sympathy  for 
his  patients,  could  do  them  much  harm  if  he  had  not  the 
appropriate  knowledge.  Are  not  politicians  open  to  the 
reproach  from  the  point  of  view  of  morality  that  very  often 
through  ignorance  they  do  the  very  worst  evil  in  public 
administration  ?  With  the  progress  of  knowledge,  moral 
conduct  and  useful  conduct  will  become  more  and  more 
closely  identified. 

I  have  been  reproached  because  in  my  system  the  health 
of  the  body  occupies  too  large  a  place.  It  cannot  be  other- 
wise, because  health  certainly  plays  the  chief  part  in  exist- 
ence. Notwithstanding  his  pessimism,  Schopenhauer  was 
convinced  that  health  was  the  greatest  treasure,  a  treasure 
before  which  everything  else  yielded.  In  many  religions 
care  of  the  health  is  laid  down  amongst  the  chief  duties. 
Although  many  scientific  men  do  not  hold  the  opinion 
that  circumcision  was  ordained  for  hygienic  reasons,  it 
is  certain  that  hygiene  was  extremely  important  in  the 
Jewish  religion.  It  is  only  in  Christianity,  which  despises 
the  human  body,  that  hygiene  is  excluded  from  the  re- 
ligious code,  as  in  the  words  of  Jesus :  — 

"Take  no  thought  for  your  life,  what  ye  shall  eat,  or 
what  ye  shall  drink ;  nor  yet  for  your  body,  what  ye  shall 
put  on.  Is  not  the  life  more  than  meat,  and  the  body 
than  raiment?"  (Matt,  vi.,  25).  As  for  long  ages 
hygiene  was  very  imperfectly  known,  it  is  not  surprising 
that  it  played  a  small  part  in  human  affairs.  Probably 
the  objection  to  the  importance  that  I  assign  to  it  in  ortho- 
biosis  is  a  relic  from  the  old  order  of  things.  Now,  how- 


ever,  the  situation  is  different.  Bacteriology  has  placed 
hygiene  on  a  scientific  foundation,  so  that  the  latter  is  now 
one  of  the  exact  sciences.  It  has  now  become  necessary 
to  give  it  the  chief  place  in  applied  morality  as  it  is  the 
branch  of  knowledge  that  teaches  how  men  ought  to  live. 

It  has  been  objected  that  I  have  left  no  place  for  altruism 
in  my  system.1  Certainly  I  have  tried  to  find  an  egoistic 
basis  for  moral  conduct,  as  I  have  shown  above.  I  think, 
however,  that  the  wish  to  live  according  to  the  ideal  of 
orthobiosis  and  to  make  others  live  a  normal  life  would  be 
a  powerful  agency  in  improving  social  life,  in  preventing 
mutual  damage,  and  promoting  mutual  help.  Such  a 
motive,  within  the  reach  of  persons  whose  altruistic  feel- 
ings are  not  specially  strong,  must  largely  extend  moral 
conduct  amongst  human  beings,  and  even  although  in 
future  such  manifestations  of  high  morality  as  the  sacrifice 
of  life  and  health  will  become  wholly  or  nearly  wholly 
useless,  I  think  that  for  the  present  there  is  still  room  for 
altruism.  The  practical  application  of  scientific  knowledge 
already  gained  admits  much  self-denial  and  good  feeling. 
Struggle  against  prejudices  of  all  kinds  and  the  develop- 
ment and  diffusion  of  sound  ideas  require  a  conduct  very 
highly  altruistic. 

The  fears  of  my  opponents  are  still  less  justified  when 
we  reflect  that  the  feelings  of  sympathy  and  of  cohesion 
must  play  a  large  part  in  the  business  of  helping  the 
evolution  of  man  towards  the  goal  of  normal  life. 

Although  our  actual  knowledge  already  provides  a  basis 
of  rational  morality,  it  may  be  admitted  that  in  the 
future,  if  science  continues  its  forward  march,  the  rules  of 
moral  conduct  will  become  still  more  improved.  There  will 

1  Dr.  Grasset,  "La  fin  de  la  vie"  in  the  Revue  de  philosephie^  Aug. 
ist,  1903. 


be  no  ground  for  reproaching  me  for  a  blind  faith  in  the 
all-powerf illness  of  science.  Much  more  trust  can  be  given 
to  one  who  has  faithfully  carried  out  his  promises,  than  to 
one  who  has  promised  much  and  fulfilled  nothing.  Science 
has  already  justified  the  hopes  which  have  been  placed  in  it. 
It  has  saved  people  from  the  most  terrible  diseases,  and 
has  made  life  much  easier.  On  the  other  hand,  religions, 
which  demand  an  uncritical  faith  as  the  means  of  curing  the 
ills  which  afflict  humanity,  have  not  fulfilled  their  promises. 

The  reproach  that  I  preach  blind  faith  in  the  progress  of 
science,  destined  to  replace  religious  faith,  is  unjust,  because 
my  faith  depends  on  a  confidence  that  science  has  already 
deserved.  Equally  unjust  is  the  reproach  that  I  have  built 
my  system  on  a  partly  metaphysical  principle.  Accord- 
ing to  M.  Parodi,1  the  hypothesis  of  physiological  old  age 
and  of  natural  death  seem  to  "  involve  the  idea  of  a  natural 
duration  of  human  life,  which,  however,  from  accidental 
reasons  man  does  not  complete  at  present.  M.  Metchnikoff 
repeatedly  uses  the  expression  '  normal  cycle.'  Now  do 
we  not  see  here  the  surreptitious  repetition  of  the  old  teleo- 
logical  conception  of  nature,  although  at  first  he  so  ener- 
getically disavowed  it  ?  It  is  the  belief  that  the  species  is 
a  necessary  reality,  corresponding  to  a  definite  type  of  its 
own,  in  fact  a  special  design  of  nature;  that  nature,  to 
guide  herself,  had  an  ideal  which  circumstances  could 
mistake  or  degrade,  but  which  had  to  be  restored  to  its 
perfect  form  ?  Otherwise,  why  does  he  insist  that  there 
must  be  a  condition  of  perfect  and  stable  equilibrium 
between  individual  and  environment  ?  that  there  is  a  normal 
cycle  and  that  it  must  be  possible  to  harmonise  the  dis- 

I  can  show  easily  that  all  these  objections  rest  upon  a 
1  "Morale  et  biologic,"  Revue  philosophique,  1904,  vol.  Iviii,  p.  125. 


simple  misunderstanding.  I  have  never  conceived  of  the 
existence  of  any  ideal  of  nature  or  of  the  inevitable  neces- 
sity of  transforming  disharmonies  to  harmonies.  I  have 
no  knowledge  of  the  "  designs  "and  "  motives  "  of  nature ; 
I  have  never  taken  my  stand  on  metaphysical  ground.  I 
have  not  the  remotest  idea  if  nature  has  any  ideal  and  if 
the  appearance  of  man  on  the  earth  were  a  part  of  such  an 
ideal.  What  I  have  spoken  of  is  the  ideal  of  man  corre- 
sponding to  the  need  to  ward  off  the  great  evils  of  old  age 
as  it  is  now,  and  of  death  as  we  see  it  around  us.  I  have 
said,  moreover,  that  human  nature,  that  collection  of  com- 
plex features  of  multiple  origin,  contains  certain  elements 
which  may  be  used  to  modify  it  according  to  our  human 
ideal.  I  have  done  nothing  but  what  the  horticulturist 
does  when  he  finds  in  the  nature  of  plants  elements  which 
suggest  to  him  to  try  and  make  new  and  improved  races. 
Just  as  the  constitution  of  some  plum  trees  contains  elements 
which  make  it  possible  to  produce  plums  without  stones 
which  are  pleasanter  to  eat,  so  also  in  our  own  nature  there 
exist  characters  which  make  it  possible  to  transform  our 
disharmonious  nature  into  a  harmonious  one,  in  accord- 
ance with  our  ideal,  and  able  to  bring  us  happiness.  I 
have  not  the  smallest  idea  what  ideal  nature  may  have  on 
the  subject  of  plums,  but  I  know  very  well  that  man  has 
such  designs  and  such  an  ideal  as  form  a  point  of  de- 
parture for  the  transformation  of  the  nature  of  plums. 
Substitute  man  for  the  plum  tree  and  you  are  at  my  point 
of  view.  When  I  have  spoken  of  the  normal  cycle  of  life 
or  of  physiological  old  age,  I  have  used  the  words  normal 
and  physiological  only  in  relation  to  our  ideal  of  the 
human  constitution.  I  might  just  as  well  have  said  that  a 
cactus  without  thorns  is  the  normal  cactus  in  the  conditions 
where  it  was  desired  to  obtain  a  succulent  plant  useful  as 


food  for  cattle.  The  words  "normal"  and  "physio- 
logical "  seemed  to  me  more  convenient  than  such  a  phrase 
as  "in  correspondence  with  human  ideals." 

I  am  so  little  convinced  of  the  existence  of  any  dis- 
position of  nature  to  transform  our  ills  into  goods,  and 
our  disharmonies  into  harmonies,  that  it  would  not  surprise 
me  if  such  an  ideal  were  never  reached.  Even  in  unmeta- 
physical  circles  it  is  said  that  nature  has  the  intention  of 
preserving  the  species  at  the  expense  of  the  individual.  The 
ground  of  this  is  that  the  species  survives  the  individual .  On 
the  other  hand,  very  many  species  have  completely  disap- 
peared. Amongst  these  species  were  animals  very  highly 
organised,  such  as  some  anthropoid  apes  (Dryopithecus, 
etc.).  As  nature  has  not  spared  these,  how  can  we  be 
certain  that  she  is  not  ready  to  deal  with  the  human  race 
in  the  same  way.  It  is  impossible  for  us  to  know  the  un- 
known, its  plans  and  motives.  We  must  leave  nature  on 
one  side  and  concern  ourselves  with  what  is  more  congru- 
ous with  our  intelligence. 

Our  intelligence  informs  us  that  man  is  capable  of  much, 
and  for  this  reason  we  hope  that  he  may  be  able  to  modify 
his  own  nature  and  transform  his  disharmonies  into  har- 
monies. It  is  only  human  will  that  can  attain  this  ideal. 


ABELARD,    273 

Abraham,    use  of   soured  milk,    171 

Ackermann,    Mde.,    237 

Actinosphcerium,   degeneration   in,  14 

Adanson,  on  age  of  Baobab-tree,  98 

Adrenaline,    effect   of,    121 

Agave,   duration   of  life  of,    100 

Aged,     treatment    of    in    uncivilised 
countries,    i,   a 

Alcohol   and    longevity,    91,    92 

Algeria,  ostriches  at,  76,  78,  79 

Altruism,    331 

Ambard,   Dr.,  on   Mde.   Robineau,  7 

Anaemia,   of  brain,   and  sleep,    122 
use  of  serums  in,    149 

Andre,     M.,      use     of      serums      in 
anasmia,    149 

Anger,    321 

Annandale,    Nelson,   on   age   of  ane- 
mones,  48 

Annuals,     change     to     biennials     or 

perennials,    100 
death  of,    102 

Antelopes,   excreta  of,   66 

Anthropoids,    mental    characters   of, 
191    ct   seq. 

Antiseptics,     use     of,     in     intestinal 
putrefaction,    156 

Ants,   220,   221 

Apes,  anthropoid,   mental  characters 

of,    191    et    seq. 
relationship    to    man,     184,     185 

Arabs,  use  of  milk  by,    174 

Aristotle,    132 

Arteries,    sclerosis    of,    in    the    aged, 


Ascidians,    social,    219 
Ashworth,  Mr.,  on  age  of  anemones, 


Atheroma,    in    the   aged,    30 
Atrophy,   of  cells,    26 
of    muscles,    28 

Auditory      apparatus,      rudimentary 

organism,    188 

Augsburg,   elixir  of  life,    138 
Auto-intoxication,      from     intestinal 

putrefaction,  69 
in   plants,    107 
sleep,  due  to,   120 

Babinsky,     Dr.,     hysteria     a     relic 
from  apes,   209 

Balkan     States,      centenarians     fre- 
quent  in,    90 

Baobab-tree,   age  of,   98 

Barth,    Dr.,    definition   of   somnam- 
bulism, 206 

Batrachia,    longevity    of,    50 

Bats,   intestinal  flora  of,  80,  81 

Bees,    49,   220,    226 

Beetroot,    perennial   variety    of,    100 

Belgium,    old    age   pensions,    4 

Belonovsky,      M.,     on     serums     in 
anaemia,    148 

Belonowsky,      Dr.,      on      Bulgarian 
bacillus,   170 

Berthelot,    on    dragon-tree    of    Oro- 
tava,  96 

Bertrand,    M.    G.,    on    sorbose    fer- 
mentation,   106 

Bertrand  and  Weisweiler,   on   Bacil- 
lus bulgaris,   179 

Besredka,     M.,    on    blood    serums, 
148,    149 

Bielschowsky,  biographer  of  Goethe, 

Blanchard,   E.,  on  age  of  carp,  50 

Birds,    intestinal    flora   of,    76,    79 
longevity   of,    52 

Blindness,    248,    257 

Bloch,    Dr.     I.,    on    Schopenhauer, 



Blood-vessels,    hardening   of,    in    the 

old,   31 

Bodio,    on    infant    mortality,    85 
Boerhave,   on   gerokomy,    136 
Bones,   degeneration   of,   29,   30 
Bordet,    M.   J.    M.,    on   serums,    148 
Botulism,  poison  of,  70,  82 
Bouchard,     M.,    on    disinfection    of 

intestines,     156 
Bouchet,    M.,    on   constipation   after 

parturition,    68 

Bourneville,   M.,  on  effects  of  extir- 
pation of  thyroid,  34 
Boveri,    M.,    produced    atherana    by 

nicotine,    32 

Bone,   marrow,   in  old  age,  37 
Botryllus,    219 
Boutroux,     definition     of     morality, 

Bradyfagy,    159 

Brain,  anaemia  of,  as  cause  of 
sleep,  122 

Brehm,   on  age  of  cattle,   55 

Brettes,  criticism  of  "  rudimentary 
organs,"  186 

Bricon,  M.,  on  effects  of  extirpa- 
tion of  thyroid,  34 

Brigand,    Calabrian,    fear   of   death, 

'94.    *95 

Brillat-Savarin,  quotation  from,    126 
Brown-S^quard,     specific     for     long 

life,    139,    277 
Brudzinsky,    M.,    on    use    of    lactic 

microbes,    181 

Buddha,  on  pessimism,   233,   247 
Buehler,    Dr.,   on  cause  of  old  age, 


Buffon,  on  duration  of  life,  40,  50 
Bulgarian    bacillus,    178,    179,    180, 

iSi,    182 
Bunge,  on  relation  between  growth 

and    longevity,    42 
Burbank,     American     horticulturist, 

326,   328 

Butterflies,   longevity   of,    57 
Butschli,   O.,  on  life  of  cells,   15 
Byron,    239,    247,    295 

C.ACHEXIA,       after      extirpation      of 

thyroid   gland,   34 
Caeca,   of  vertebrates,    60  et  seq. 
Cagliostro,   elixir  of  life,    138 
Calomel,  as  an  intestinal  antiseptic, 

syphilis,    146 
Camphor,     as     an     intestinal     anti- 
septic,   156 

Canary   Islands,   96 

Cancalon,  Dr.,  on  instinct  of  death, 

128,    129 

Cancer,    and    cleanliness,    144 
Candolle,    A.    de,    on    cypresses    of 

Mexico,    98 
on   age   of   trees,    99 
Cantacuzene,   M.,  on  blood  serums 


Capital   punishment,    305 
Carlyle,    on  "  Werther,"   265 
Castration,    effects    of,    272 
Cats,  longevity  of,   56 
Cattle,    longevity   of,    55 
Celibacy,   and  education  of  women, 


Cell   reproduction,   rate  of,    16 
Centenarians,  4,  5,  86,  88,  89,   175, 

Charcot,  on  sterilised  food,  162,   163 

on   hysteria,    202 
Charron,        M.,       on       putrefactive 

poisons,  69 
Chemin,    M.,    on    centenarians,    88, 


Chimpanzee,    185,    192,    193 
China,    Emperor  Chi-Hoang-Ti   and 

immortality,    137 
Chopin,    a   degenerate,    134 
Christian   morality,  321,  330 
Chromophags,    action    of,    25 
Claparede,    E.,   on   theory   of   sleep, 

123,    124,    125 
Cleanliness,     and    increase    of    life, 

Clergymen,    increasing    duration    of 

life  of,    142 

Coffee   and   longevity,   92 
Cohausen,   on  gerokomy,    137 
Cohendy,     Dr.     M.,    on     Bulgarian 

bacillus,    178 

on    intestinal    flora,    78,    79 
on   intestinal    putrefaction,    168 
on  thymol  as  a  disinfectant,  157 
Collectivism,    228 
Colon,    absorption    in,    64 
Constipation,     evil     results    of,     67, 

68,    69 
Cooking,    effect   of,   on   microbes   in 

food,    162 

Copenhagen,   suicide  in,   3 
Coral    polyps,    216 
Cornaro,   91 

Cossacks,    and   biennial   rye,    100 
Cretinism,    compared    with    senility, 


Croesus,    197 
Cryptogams,    life  of,   99 



Cursorial   birds,    intestinal   flora   of, 


Cypress,   age  of,  98 
Czerny,      M.,      on      absorption      in 

colon,    64 
on   cancer,    144 

D 'ALTON,  and  Goethe,  280 
Dalyell,  old  anemone  of,  48 
Dana,    on    monstrilla,    115 
Darwin,  on  fear,  195 
David,   King,   136 
Death,   instinct  of,    128,    129 
natural,  94,    109,    119 
sensations  at  approach  of,    126, 

127,    130 
Debreuil,     Ch.,     on     defecation     in 

rheas,    76 

on   excreta  of   antelopes,   66 
Degenerates,   famous,   134 
Delage,    Yves,    criticism   of   instinct 

of  death,   128 
on   function  of  large   intestines, 

65,  66 

Demange,   M.,   on   old   age,    119 
Denmark,   suicide   in,   3,    237 
Descent  of  man,   184 
Despotism,    and   socialism,   230 
de    Vries,    H.,    on    duration   of   life 

of  plants,    104 
on      prolongation      of      life     of 

plants,    100 

on  natural  death  in  plants,   101 
Diet   and   longevity,    46 
Digestive    system    and    senility,    59 
Diplogaster,       mother       killed       by 

larvae,    in 
Diphtheria,  323 
Disease,  and  shortening  of  life,  145 

et  seq. 

Doctors,    lady,    225 
Dodo,    213 

Dogs,   longevity  of,   55 
Dostoiewsky,    quotation    from,    2 
Doyen,     M.,     operation    on    double 

monsters,   216 

Dragon-tree,  of  Orotava,  96,  97,  98 
Drakenberg,   age  of,   87 
Drunkenness,   and   morality,   317 
Dryopithecus,  334 
Ducks,    old,    ii 
Duering,    on   pessimism,    248 
Durand-Fardel,    M.,    on    atheroma, 


Duration  of  life,   in  animals,  39  et 
seq.,    133 

EAGLES,  intestinal  flora  of,  82 
Ecclesiastes,   quotation   from,   233 
Eckermann,    narrative    of    Goethe's 

last   years,    271,    274,    279 
Egoism,    227,   306,   331 
Egyptian  milk,   105 
Eimer,   Th.,   on    intestines   of   bats 

&c.,   62,    63 

Einhorn,  Dr.,  on  bradyfagy,   159 
Elective    Affinities,    Goethe's,    273 
Elephants,   9,    54,   83,    197 
Eliot,    George,    322 
Elixir  vitce,   138 
Ellenberger,    on   digestion    in    horse, 


Enriquez,  on  infusoria,   13 
Ephemeridae,     duration    of    life    of, 

113,   118 
Epicureans,   309 
Epiphyses      of      bones,      as      giving 

period    of    growth,    40 
Ermenghem,    van,    on    botulism,    70 
Errera,   Dr.,  on  cause  of  sleep,   121 
Eudoxia,  218 

Ewald,  on  absorption  in  colon,  64 
Exhaustion,      as     cause     of     plant 

death,    104,    107 
Extinction   of   animals,    213 
Eye,   in   old   age,   36 

FATIGUE,    Weichardt    on    cause    of, 


"  Faust "   and   Goethe,    283   et  seq. 
Favorsky,    Dr.,    on   botulism,   82 
Fear,   analysis  of,    194 
Fecundity  and  duration  of  life,   43, 

44.  45.   57.   58 
Feinkind,     case     of    somnambulism 

quoted  from,   204 
Femininist  movement,  224 
Fermentation,  cause  of,    105 
Fertility  and  longevity,  44,  45 
Fish,   longevity  of,   50 
Flamans,    M.,   5 
Fletcher,  on  chewing,   159 
Flora,      of      intestines,      poisonous 

effect  of,   70,   73   et  seq.,    151    et 

Flourens,    on    duration    of    life,    40, 

Foa,    on    use    of    soured    milk    in 

Africa,    172 
Food,    evil    effects    of    putrefaction 

in,    163 

Fouard,   M.,  on  soured  milk,   180 
Fiirbbinger,      on      Brown-Se"quard's 

emulsions,    139 




Gautier,   A.,   on  leucomaines,    121 
Gegenbaur,   on   intestinal   tract,   60, 


Genius   and   sexual   power,   272 
Gerokomy,    136 
Gessner,    on   age   of   pike,    50 
Gestation    and    longevity,    42 
Giacomini,  on  Harderian  gland,  189 
Gibbons,    192,    198 
Goebel,     on     duration     of     life     of 

protnalli,    101,    102 
Goethe,   260-300,   305 
"  Goose-skin,"    196 
Gorilla,    strength    of,    192 
Griesbach,    on    sense    of    touch    in 

blind,  257 
Grigoroff,    on    Bulgarian    yahourth, 

175,    178 

Grindon,    on   age   of   sheep,    55 
Guinon,  Dr.,  on  a  case  of  hysteria, 

Gurney,    J.     H.,     on    longevity    of 

birds,   51,   79 

HAECKEL,   on  medical   selection,    134 

Haffkine,    M.,    112 

Hair,    17,    18 

Halictus,  a  solitary  bee,   226 

Haller,    on    human    longevity,    84, 


Hamlet,   quotation   from,   239 
Hannibal,    his    elephants   swim    the 

Rhone,    197 
Harderian   gland,    189 
Hartmann,    235,    241 
Harvey,   on   Parr,   87 
Hayem,     Prof.,     on     use    of    lactic 

acid,    169,    173 
Heart,    diseases    of,    and    syphilis, 

MS.    146 

Hegesias,    and   suicide,    234 
Heile,   on  absorption  in  colon,   64 
Heim,   on   microbes   in  milk,    176 
Heim,    Prof.,    on    Alpine    accidents, 


Heine,  236,  240 

Hermippus,    and   gerokomy,    137 
Herter,    Dr.,    experiments   on   lactic 

acid    in   dogs,    167 
Hertwig,     R.,    on    Actinosph&rium, 

Hildebrand,   on   duration   of  life   of 

plants,    101,    102 
Hippocrates,    132 
Hofmeister,   on   digestion    in   horse, 

Honey-ant,  222 

Horse,    caecum,    62 
digestion,  74 
use   of   serum,    147 
Horsley,    Sir   V.,   on   effects   of   ex- 
tirpation  of   thyroid,   34 
Horst,  on  a  somnambulistic  soldier, 

Huf eland,   quotation   from   "  Macro- 

biotique,"    137 

Hugo,    V.,    and   sexuality,    277 
Humboldt,    on   dragon-tree   of    Oro- 

tava,    96 

on  longevity  of  parrots,  52 
Hunger,  compared  with  sleep,  125 
Huxley,  on  character  of  Orang,  193 
Hygiene,  and  old  age,  141,  142,  143 
Hypnotism,  of  a  crowd  on  indi- 
viduals, 210 

Hysteria,    analysis   of,    200  et   seq. 
in   monkeys,    208 

IBSEN,  and  sexuality,  277 

Idleness,    316 

Immortality,    Chinese   beverage   for, 

137.    '38 
Incubation,    duration    of,    compared 

with   longevity,   41,   42 
India,    government   of,    and    age   of 

elephants,    54 
Individualism,    316 
Individuality,  212  et  seq. 
Infusoria,    death    of,    95 

senescence   of,    13 
Insects,   ages   of,   49 

social,   220  et   seq. 
Instinct,    of    death,    128,    129 
maternal,    319,    320,    329 
social,    306 

Intestine,   large,   59,   65,  67,    151 
Intuitive  theory  of  morality,  305 

JACOBSON,    organ    of,    187 

Javal,    Dr.,    on    characters    of    the 

blind,   257,   259 
Jenner,     effect     of     vaccination     on 

mortality  rate,   144 
Josue,    M.,    artificial    production    of 

atheroma,    32 

Jousset,   Dr.,   on  difference  between 
man   and   apes,    184 

KANT,   309,    310 

Kautsky,   on  socialism,  229,   230 

Kentigern,   age  of,   87 



Kephir,    171,    172,    173 

Khoury,  M.,  on  ferment  of  Egyp- 
tian milk,  105 

Kocher,  Dr.,  on  effects  of  extirpa- 
tion of  thyroid  gland,  33 

Kocher,  Prof.,  case  of  removal  of 
large  intestine,  152,  153 

Kolliker,  on  degeneration  of 
muscles,  27 

Koppenfels,  on  character  of  gorilla, 

Koumiss,    172 

Kowalevsky,    Sophie,    225 

Kowalevsky,   analysis  of  pessimism, 

241.    255 
Kukula,    experiments    on    intestinal 

poisons,    69,    70 
Kwass,    166 

LACTIC  BACILLI,   and   putrefaction  in 

intestine,    168 
Laignel-Lavastine,    M.,    criticism    of 

neuronophagy,  20 

Lankester,  Sir  E.  Ray,  on  lon- 
gevity, 12,  56 

Lao-Tse",    and    immortality,    137 
Laud,    Archbishop,    old    tortoise   of, 

Lautschenberger,    on    absorption    in 

colon,    64 

Lavater,    Goethe's  letter   to,   268 
Laws  aiding  the  aged,  3,  4 
"  Leben,"  Egyptian,    105,    171,    177, 

Le  Bon,  G.,  on  hysteria  in  crowds, 


Lenau,  M.,  236 
Lenthe'ric,    on   elephants   swimming, 

Leopard!,   G.,  pessimistic  poet,  235, 

.  236,    247 
Le      Play,      M.,      on      putrefactive 

poisons,   69 

LeVi,   M.,   on   senile  brain,   20 
Lermontoff,    236 

Leucomaines,   as  cause  of  sleep,  121 
Levaillant,   on   longevity  of  parrots, 

Lewes,  G.  H.,  on  Goethe,  273,  290, 

29;,  298 
Lexis,    on    duration    of   human    life, 

Life,    duration    of,    in    animals,    39 

et   seq. 
Life,    prolongation   of  human,  132,  et 

"  sense  "   of,    260 

Lima,   Dr.,   on  use  of   soured   milk 

in  Africa,    172,    174 
Lloyd,   M.,   old  anemone  of,   47 
London   Zoological   Gardens,    51,   81 
Longevity,    in   animal   kingdom,   47 

et  seq. 

human,    84   et   seq. 
rules    for,    141 
in   sexes,   44 
theories   of,    39 
Lorand,     Dr.,    on    ductless    glands, 


Love,    Goethe   and,    272 
Loewenberg,    Dr.,   on   Mde.    Robin- 

eau,  7 
Luxury,   321 

MACFADYEN,       Nencki      and      Mde. 

Sieber,  on  digestion,  153,  161 
Macrophags,    25,    147 
Mailaender,   235,   255 
Malaquin,    M.,    on    Monstrilla,    116, 


Male   rotifers,   death   of,    114,    115 
Malthus,    theory   of,    214 
Mammals,    longevity    of,    53 
Mammary  glands,  in  males,  186 
Man,  compared  with  apes,    184,    185 
natural    death    of,    119    et   seq. 
longevity  of,  84  et  seq. 
Manoue°lian,   M.,   on   neuronophagy, 

21,      22 

Marinesco,     M.,    on    neuronophogs, 

Marrow   of   the   bones,    in   old   age 

Marsiliaceae,     duration     of     life     of 

prothallus,    99 
Martin,   on   Gibbons,    192 
Massart,     on     cause     of     death     in 

plants,    102,    109 
Massol,    Prof.,    178 
Mastication,    and    intestinal    putre- 
faction,   1 60 
Matchinsky,     M.,     on     atrophy     of 

ovary,    26 

Maternal    instinct,    319,    320 
Mauclaire,    M.,   operations  on  large 

intestine,    153,    154,    155 
Maumus,  M.,  on  digestion  in  caeca, 


Mauritius,   giant   tortoise  from,    12 
Maupas,    M.,   on   infusoria,    13 
Maya,    178 

Mayers,    on   Chinese  elixir,    138 
Meconium,    appearance  of   microbes 

in,   161 



Medical   selection,    134 

Mesnet   and    Mottet,    Drs.,    cases   of 

hysteria,    203 

Mice,  duration  of  life,  41,  43,  56 
Michaelis,    on   muscles  of   monkeys, 


Microbes,  as  cause  of  senility,  73 
in   food,    162,    163 
passage        through        intestinal 

walls,    71 

Middlemarch,    G.    Eliot's,    322 
Milk,     importance    of    boiling,     177, 


microbes   of   disease   in,    177 
putrefaction     and     fermentation 

of,    167 

use  of  soured   milk,    181,    182 
Mill,   J.   S.,   323 
Milne-Edwards,     H.,     on     laws     of 

duration   of   life,   42 
Minot,   Prof.,   on  cause  of  old  age, 

1 6 

Moa,    213 

Moebius,    on    Goethe,    271 
on   Schopenhauer,    255 
Molluscs,    ages   of,    48 
Mongols,    hair   in   old,    17 
Monkeys,    longevity   of,    83 
Monsters,    double,    216 
Monstrilla,   life-history  of,    115,   116, 


Montefiore,   Sir  M.,  91 
Morality,    Christian,    321 
definitions  of,  303 
Kantian,   309,   310,   311,  312 
science  and,  301  et  seq. 
Mortality  rates  of  old  persons,   142, 


Moses,    use  of  soured   milk,    171 
Mosso,  on  fear,   194,   196 
Muscles,   degeneration  of,   9,   26,   27 
Myxomycetes,  215 

NAEGELI,  on  age  of  trees,  99 

Nails,   growth  of,   in  the  old,    18 

Naphthaline,  as  an  intestinal  anti- 
septic, 156 

Nature,    human,   325 

Nausenne,  Mde.,  cause  of  longevity, 

Negroes,    longevity   of,    88 

Neisser,  Prof.,  on  protection 
against  syphilis,  146 

Nematodes,   death   of,    in 

Nemertines,  life-history  of  Pilidium 
of,  109  et  seq. 

Nencki  and  Sieber,  on  digestion, 
153,  161,  169 

Neuronophags,    19,    20,    21,    22,    23, 

Nicotine,     use    of     in     experimental 

production    of   atheroma,    32 
Nietzsche,  criticism  of  Socialism, -230 
Nogueira,  M.,  on  use  of  soured  milk 

in  Africa,    172,   174 

OBSTACLES,   sense   of,    258 
Old  age,  Goethe  and,   279  et  seq. 
Olympian,    Goethe  as   an,    269 
Optimism,    foundation    of,    256 

Goethe's       transformation       to, 

269,    270   et    seq. 
Orang-outan,   185,   193 
Orotava,  dragon-tree  of,  96 
Orstein,     Dr.,     on    centenarians    ill 

Greece,   90 

Orthobiosis,    212,    325    et   seq. 
Ossetes,  use  of  soured  milk,   173 
Osteoclasts,  30 
Ostrich,  defecation  of,  76 
Oustalet,  M.,  on  longevity  of  verte- 
brates,   46 

Ovary,  atrophy  of,   26 
Owls,   intestinal  flora  of,  83 
Ownership,   collective,   229,   230 

PARODI,  on  old   age,   332 

Parr,    Thomas,    87 

Parrots,   duration  of  life,  41 

scanty  intestinal  flora  of,  79 
Pasquier,    Dr.    du,    on    constipation, 

Pasteur,  discovery  of  lactic  microbe, 

105,    167 

Paulsen,  criticism  of  Kant,  314 
Pensions,   old  age,    3,  4,    133 
Pessimism,    129,  233,   234,  239,   241, 

249,   266 
Pessimist,  study  of  life-history  of  a, 

249  et  seq. 

Pfliiger,   on  longevity,  93 
Phagocytes,   18,   19 
Phagocytosis,    examples   of,   25,   37 
Phalansteries,  229 
Pilidium,    109   et   seq. 
Pitres,   M.,  hysteric  patients  of,  200 
Plague,   323 

Plants,   death   of,   99,    103 
Plasmodia,    of    Myxomycetes,     215, 


Pleurotrocha   haffkini,    112,    113 
Pochon,   Dr.,  experiments  on  use  of 

lactic  bacilli,   169 
Poehl,  Dr.,  on  spermine,   139,   140 
Pohl,  Dr.,  on  growth  of  hair,  17,  18 
Pono genes,  as  cause  of  sleep,   120 


Potatoes,  improved  by  Burbank,  326 

Poushkin,    236 

Predestination,    and   plants,    103 

Preyer,   Dr.,  on  Ponogenes,   120 

Prichard,  on  longevity  of  negroes, 

Productivity  compared  with  fecund- 
ity, 57.  58 

Prostokwacha,    172,    176 

Prolongation  of  life,    132   et  seq. 

Prothalli,   life  of,   99 

Psychids,   death   of,    117 

Ptolemy,  fear  of  Hegesias'  philo- 
sophy, 235 

Punishment,  capital,  305 

Purgatives,  use  of,  in  intestinal 
putrefaction,  157 

Putrefaction,  intestinal,  151  et  seq., 
161,  163,  164 

QUETELET,  on  stature  of  the  aged,  9 

RABBIT,   fecundity  of,  58 

Ravens,   absence   of  putrefaction   in 

intestines  of,  75" 
Reagents,    action    of,    in    distorting 

tissues,   20 
Renouvier,    C.,    on   his   own   death, 

Reproduction,    organs   of,    rudiments 

in,    189 

Reptiles,   longevity  of,  50 
Rhea,  caeca  of,  60,  77 
Rhinoceros,   longevity  of,   54 
Rhytina,    213 

Riley,  James,  on  food  of  Arabs,   174 
Rimpau,  on  cultivation  of  rye,  326, 


Rist  and  Khoury,  on  milk,   178 
Rist,    M.,    on    ferment   of    Egyptian 

milk,   105 
Riviere,      M.,      on      defecation      in 

ostriches,  76,  78,  79 
Robineau,  Mde.,  5,  6,  7,  8,  128,  159 
"  Roman    Elegies,"    Goethe's,    268, 

Rotifera,   duration  of  life,   39 

death   of,    112 

Roux,   anti-syphilitic  ointment,    146 
Rovighi,   on   Kephir,    173 
Rudimentary  organs,   185  et  seq. 
Rye,   duration   of  life  of,    100 

Rimpau 's    improvement   of,    326 
Salpe^riere,     hysterical    patients    at, 

old   women   in   the,  4,   5 

Sand,    M.,    on    senile   brain,    20 
Sargent,  on  age  of  Sequoia,  98 
Sauer-kraut,    165,    171 
Sauvage,    M.,   on  atheroma,   30 
Savage,     on     character    of    anthro- 
poids,   193 
Saxe-Weimar,   Grand   Duke  of,   and 

Goethe,  274 

Schaudinn,   spirillum  of  syphilis,   31 
Schiller,  Goethe  on,  271 
Schiller,  on  moral  conduct,  310 
Schlanstedt,    rye    of,    326 
Schmidt,    on    microbes    in    constipa- 
tion,  70 
Schopenhauer,    235,    247,    255,    277, 


Schumann,  a  degenerate,    134 
Science,   and   morality,   301   et  seq. 
Sclerosis,    in  the  aged,   31 
Sea-anemones,    longevity   of,    47,    48 
Sea-cow,   213 
Selection,   medical,    134 
Seneca,    132,   235 

Senescence,    Brown-S^quard's   speci- 
fic against,  139 
mechanism  of,   25 
phagocytosis  as  cause  of,  35 
Senility,   characters  of,   8,    14 
and   digestive   system,    59 
theories   of   causation   of,    15    et 

Sensation,   analysis  of,    with   regard 

to  pain   and  pleasure,   243 
Sense  of  life,   26 

of  obstacles,   258 
Sense.      organs      of,      rudimentary 

structures    in,    186,    187 
"Sermon  on  the  Mount,"  321 
Serums,    cytotoxic,    147,    148,    149 
Servants,    care   of,    321 
Sex,   and  longevity,   57 
Sexuality,  Goethe  and,   273  et  seq. 
and  old  age,  276 
moral   problems   of,    305 
Sexual  organs,  abnormalities  of,  224 
Sexual  power  and  genius,   272 
Shakespeare,  quotations,   239,  307 
Sheep,  digestion  of,  74 

longevity,   55 

Sight,  rudimentary  organs  of,   189 
Silos,    165 
Siphonophora,   217 
Skeleton,   atrophy   of,    in   the   aged, 


Sleep,  and  anaemia  of  brain,   121 
and   auto-intoxication,    120 
and  death  compared,  125 



Sleepiness,    compared    with    hunger, 


Sleeping-sickness,    124 
Small-pox,   and  mortality  rates,    144 
Smell,   analysis  of,   243 
Smell,  rudimentary  organs  of  sense 
__  of,    187 

Smoking  and  longevity,  93 
1    Social  animals,  214,  220  et  seq. 
Socialism,    228,    229 

Tavel,    M.,    operations  on    large   in- 

testine,   152    et    seq. 
Taylor,       Bayard,       translation      of 

Faust,    285 
Termites,    220,    221 
Testis,     emulsion     of,    as    used     by 

Brown-Se'quard,     139 
resistance  of,    to  senescence,   35 
Thanatology,     131 
Theophrastus,    132 

Society  v.  the  individual,  223  et  seq.        Thymol,   as  an  intestinal  antiseptic, 
Society,    and   morality,   306  157 

Thyroid,    effects    of    extirpation    of, 

Sociology,  dependent  on  biology,  231 
Sollier,  Dr.,  on  sensations  at  death, 

Solomon,    quotation    from    "  Eccle- 

siastes,"  233 
Somnambulism,   analysis  of,   200  et 


Sorbose,    fermentation   of,    106 
Soured   milk,   use  of,    171,    181,    182 
Sparrow,   fecundity  of,   58 
Spencer,  Herbert,  criticism  of  Kant, 


criticism   of   socialism,    230 
theory    of    morality,    316,    322, 

324,  327 

Spermatozoa,    in   old   age,    35 
Spermine,   139,   140 
Stadelmann,   on   lactic   acid   in   dia- 

betes,  170 

Statistics  on  suicide,  3 
Stature,   in  old  age,  8,  9 
Stein,   Mde.   von,   267,   268,   273 
Steller's  sea-cow,   213 
Stern,   M.,  on  disinfection  of  intes- 

tine,   156 

32,   33,    34 
Timon    of    Athens,    quotation    from, 

Tissier,  Dr.,  on  Bacillus  bifidus,  161 

on  use  of  lactic  microbes,    181 
Tissier,     and     Martelly,     on     putrid 

food,    164 

Tobacco   and   longevity,   93 
Tokarsky,    on   natural   death,    126 
Tolstoi,   and  death,  94 

"  Death    of    Ivan    Ilyitch,"   318 
Tortoise,    n,    12,    13,   51 
Touch,    sense  of,    in   the   blind,    257 
Troubat,    M.,    on    instinctive    swim- 

ming,   198 

Trees,  age  and  death  of,  96,  97,  98 
Trypanosoma,   124 

UNICELLULAR    organisms,    death    of, 

Urine,    analysis    of,     in    a    centen- 

arian,  7 
Utilitarianism,    305 

Stohmann,  on  digestion  in  sheep,  74       VACHEROT,   criticism   of   Kant,   313 
Stoics,   309 
Stragesco,     Dr.,     on    digestion     in 

mammals,   63 

Strasburger,    on    disinfection    of    in- 
testine,   156,    157 
on  microbes  in  constipation,   70 
Suicide,  3,   4,   237,  238,  265,  311 
Sully-Prudhomme,        definition       of 

morality,  303 
Suprarenal  capsules,   and  atheroma, 

Swimming,      instinctive     power    of, 

197,    198,   207 

Syphilis,  31,  37,    145,    146,   302,  304 
Switzerland,  centenarians  rare  in,  91 

TANACOL,  as  an  intestinal  antiseptic, 


Taoism    and    immortality,    137,    138 
Taste,   analysis  of,   243 

Varenetz,    172 

Vascular     glands,     relation     to     old 

age,    33-    34 
Verworn,     Max,     on     death    in     in- 

fusoria,   95 
Vinegar,     in    preservation    of    food, 


Vivisection,    301 
Voisin,     M.,    criticism    of    neurono- 

phagy,    20 
Voltaire,    92,    235 
Volz,    on    swimming    power  of   gib- 

bons,   198 

WALES,  Mr.,   quotation  from   Riley, 

Weber,     Dr.,    on    regimen    for    old 

age,    140,    141 
Weichardt,     on     cause    of    fatigue, 

122,      123 



Weinberg,    Dr.,    on    preparation    of 

human  serums,    150 
on  thyroid  gland  in  aged,   33 
Weiske,    on    digestion    in    sheep,    78 
Weismann,  A.,  on  cause  of  old  age, 

15,    16 

on  death   in   infusoria,   95 
on  duration  of  life,   41,  43,  45, 

"  Weltschmerz, "  in  German  poetry, 


Werther,   Goethe's,  263,  267 
Westergaard,      statistics      of      mor- 
tality,   142,    144 

Wiedersheim,   on   intestinal   tract,  60 
Wine,   Goethe  and,  271,  279 

Wolff,   J.   H.,    Goethe's  friend,   271 
Women,   education,   224  et  seq. 

YAHOURTH,   use   in   intestinal   putre- 
faction,  168,   170,   175,   177,   178 
Yeast,   conditions  of  growth,    106 

ZEIGAN,   Dr.,  on  adrenaline,   122 
Zell,   Dr.,  on  blind  persons,   259 
Zelter,    Goethe's    friend,    265 
Zola,   "  La  Joie  de  Vivre,"  248 
Zoological   Gardens   of  London,   51, 

Zortay,    Pierre,   age  of,   87 



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